City of Ghosts is the third book about Chess Putnam, as she goes through the business of debunking hauntings. In this novel Chess is drawn into a Black Squad (government department) investigation, bound to silence about her doings. She struggles to work through the meager clues of the case as danger tightens around her, throwing everyone she cares about into the gravest peril.
I’ll say straight out that I adore this series, but I find that most series tend to have a weaker book. In my opinion, City of Ghosts is that book for Downside Ghosts.
I still greatly love all of the encounters between Chess and Terrible, which are heartbreaking and blisteringly sexy by turn. However, the whole plot dealing with Lauren from the Black Squad and their investigation seems unnecessarily complicated. We have not only the Lamanu kicking up trouble again (after encountering them in the first novel of the series), but also bodies in the street, psychopomps going mad, and a strange character called Mcguinness creeping into the frame.
To handle all of those plot elements in a tale that also seeks to provide a conclusion to very difficult personal relationships is a step too far, in my opinion, and the novel feels too rushed.
Chess’ drug use also takes a massive back seat in City of Ghosts. We’ve seen her dependency increase, especially in the second novel where she found herself blackmailed thanks to the amount she was taking. But here we only see one real instance where it is key to the storyline. I feel like Kane wavered a little in how far to take this element.
With all that said, City of Ghosts is still a superior example of urban fantasy. Kane’s worldbuilding is without peer in this genre, presenting us with the Church and psychopomps, and then the scary Downside where Chess makes her life. The food, the markets, the characters all come to startling life.
I’m thrilled that Stacia Kane is writing further books in the Downside series. The adventures of Chess are deeply satisfying, leaving you feeling real emotion about the heroine. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to read more — I will be at the front of the queue.
The Downside Ghosts (Chess Putnam) — (2010-2014) Publisher: THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED. The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch, freewheeling Debunker, and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing human liars and banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water. Chess owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.