This book is a brilliant blend of history, mystery, and supernatural thriller.
It is 1916 and we are in the middle of the first World War. The Allies have a special, semi-secret corps operating near the front. This is a corp of mediums…ghost talkers, known as the Spirit Corps. Although most people don’t believe in the ability to talk to spirits, in large part because of the back-room charlatans trying to make a buck, true mediums with the gift to talk to the dead have convinced the military of their potential.
The spirit of a soldier who dies is on a plane of existence for a short time (typically no more than a minute) and can be contacted by a true medium. Trained before going to battle the soldier is to report anything he can about the enemy … troop strength, location, etc. There is a certain amount of finesse needed on the medium’s part as the spirit, no longer held by a physical body, is no longer concerned about earthly things and often has trouble focusing long enough to give a report. The medium typically also offers to give any last messages to loved ones. Once the ‘bright light’ appears, the spirit departs for the afterlife and the medium is no longer able to talk with him.
One death hits particularly hard for medium Ginger Stuyvesant. The soldier who appears in her circle is her fiance – Ben Harford. Ginger does her job to get the information she can from him, which includes a little surprise – he was killed by one of his own men. And when Ben’s bright light doesn’t appear to take his spirit away, Ginger knows it’s because he has unfinished business. Ginger begins her search into the death of Ben, with Ben as her guide, but keeping Ben focused and herself out of danger is more than slightly challenging.
Author Mary Robinette Kowal has a beautiful sense of prose and storytelling. She doesn’t get caught up in her tremendous language but lets it float there in front of the reader as we delve into the story.
As for the story … the mystery is fair. I had much of it pegged pretty early on. But I didn’t care. The concept behind this is outstanding and the delivery is enchanting and the story, while not entirely surprising, is still strong enough not only to hold my interest but enticing enough to keep me wanting to turn pages.
I haven’t read anything by Kowal before this, but now I want to rush out and read everything she’s published.
Looking for a good book? Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal is a work of extraordinary originality and beauty and highly recommended.
I receive a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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author: Mary Robinette Kowal
publisher: Tor Books
hardcover, 304 pages