Unholy Ghosts

Mass Market Paperback | May 25, 2010

byStacia Kane

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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. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and 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.

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From the 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. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a r...

From the Jacket

“Simply the best book I’ve read this year.”—Caitlin Kitteridge

Stacia Kane has been a phone psychic, a customer service representative, a bartender, and a movie theater usher, and she thinks that writing is more fun than all of them combined. She wears a lot of black, still makes great cocktails, likes to play music loud in the car, and thinks Die Hard is one of the greatest movies ever made. She ...

other books by Stacia Kane

Unholy Magic
Unholy Magic

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City Of Ghosts
City Of Ghosts

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Chasing Magic
Chasing Magic

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Format:Mass Market PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 6.9 × 4.14 × 0.91 inPublished:May 25, 2010Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0345515579

ISBN - 13:9780345515575

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Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Debut Novel Review was originally posted on my book review blog http://j9books.blogspot.ca/ In Stacia Kane's debut novel the world has been turned upside down, the churches that we know have all gotten it wrong and the Church of Truth now rules the world, and it is their job to protect the people from the ghosts who try to steal the souls of the living. Chess does not remember what it was like before the Church of Truth was in power, all she knows is when the spirit uprising began, her parents were killed in the war. Chess was passed from foster home to foster home, but when it was discovered that she was a witch she was given over to the Church of Truth to begin her training. Chess has become on of the Debunkers, she goes into people's home who say they are being haunted by ghosts and either proves they are telling the truth or lying and it is a big fine to lie to the Church. However, Chess has a side of life that the Church knows nothing about, Chess is addicted to drugs and has some interactions with some very dangerous people and one of them has called her in to collect the debt that she owes him. But he is willing to forgive her debt if she will do one job from him, but this one job is just more than making it easier for him to get drug into the City, the whole city is about to be in Danger as the Ghosts are looking to be free once again. This novel is one of the best debuts I have ever read. Kane knows how to draw the reader in and keep them their throughout the read. I had this one sitting on my TBR shelf for a very long time, and I regret not picking it up sooner (though I am kind of happy about it as now i do not have to wait for the next book to come out in order to read it). If you have this book on your TBR shelf move it to the top of your list. This book had a good balance of paranormal and mystery. I think those looking to get into the paranormal genre will have a good start here as the paranormal aspects are not extreme or completely in your face throughout the book. The only paranormal aspects within this book are witches and ghosts (spirits), however, this does not mean that Kane did not create something unique. I think that the world that Kane built with the Church of Truth as the over riding power was really interesting (something medieval in a modern time). One of my favourite things that an author can do is not being afraid of allowing their main characters to be flawed and in this case in more than one way. I personally enjoy flawed characters and Chess's addition to drugs is what drives her and shapes her personality as she is always looking for and working for getting her next fix in an attempt to forget her past. You get little tidbits about what happened to Chess when she was growing up, but it is enough to understand why she chooses drugs to block out the memories. It was interesting for all the power that Chess had in combating ghost that she did not have the power to resist the temptation of addiction and the power was not transferable in protecting herself outside of banishing ghosts. I could have done without the romance/sex triangle in the book, however, that said the sex scene was not that long and drawn out and I was able to skim over it pretty quickly. I also really like Terrible, well minus his name, but I liked him as character. I like that Kane was not afraid to give Terrible layers and make him more than just the enforcer for a drug lord, there was more to him than that. for example he likes to read and enjoys history. I think Terrible is a very interesting character (though I did find his speech habits a little hard to read at times) and I look forward to learning more about him. I also wish that there was a bit more suspense in the book, I was never "sitting on the edge of my seat" as I was reading the book and I think that if you are going to have a book about ghosts there needs to be a horror or a "boo" aspect to it. This is one of the best debuts that I have read and you need to take this book off your TBR shelf and give it a read, I do not think that you will be disappointed. Additionally, I think those who are looking to get into the paranormal genre but do not quite know if it is for them, will find this novel a good transition novel into the genre. I am looking forward to getting my hands on the next book I think that Kane has the start of a killer series. Enjoy!!!
Date published: 2012-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark, Gritty, and Really Good 4.5 Stars Unholy Ghosts is one of the most original books I have read in a very long time. A lot of urban fantasy/romance books follow a specific plot line where the kick ass heroine beats up a few bad guys, saves the day, and then gets it on with the uber sexy hero who usually has some sort of supernatural power. It's pretty much all puppies and rainbows by the end. However, with Unholy Ghosts, Kane takes readers on a dark and gritty adventure where there are no puppies and rainbows in sight. After ghosts rose up from the grave in 1997 and killed a two-thirds of the worlds population, the old religions were abandoned and the Church of Real Truth, which is based on magic, was embraced as the only means to fend off another ghostly attack. Caesaria or Chess Putnam works for the Church as a witch and a Debunker; a person who banishes ghosts back to their resting place in the City of Eternity. However, Chess spends most her income from investigating hauntings on her drug habit. As the story progresses, we learn that Chess owes a ton of money to her drug dealer Bump. In order to remedy her debt, Bump enlists Chess to investigate a supposed haunting at an airport, which he plans to use to transport drugs. However, when Chess begins her investigation, she soon learns that there is far more going on at the airport than just a simple haunting. Chess is one of the most screwed up protagonists I have ever encountered. However, she is also very complex and extremely likable. While at first I didn't know what to think about her being a druggie, I came to understand her drug habit is just a part of who Chess is. She is flawed and deals with a lot of her emotional issues from growing up in the system by getting high. She isn't a hero and never claims to be. To me, Kane actually gives a more realistic view on how someone befitting the hero stereotype would actually cope in real life. However, I do hope that one day Chess will learn how to deal with her issues without turning to drugs. Just say no kids. Another standout character in the book is Terrible. Like Chess, he is the anti-hero. Often described as being ugly, with his muttonchops and bowling shirts, he is the classic example of it's whats on the inside that counts. In the beginning of the book, I was scratching my head trying to figure out Terrible's appeal, but by the end I could understand why Chess is attracted to him. To Chess, Terrible isn't ugly, that's just the way he looks. Although Chess becomes involved with a rival gang member, Lex, I am officially on Team Terrible. The only thing that did bug me about the book was the way some of the Downside residents spoke. At first, I couldn't decide if they were pirates or all had Scottish accents. Maybe they are Scottish pirates? After a while though, the disjointed speech grew on me. I just wish there was more explanation as to why people speak that way. Unholy Ghosts is one of the best urban fantasies I have ever read. The story is dark, gritty, and has a ton of action that will keep you on the edge of your seat. It also has just a touch of romance for those who are looking for something with a little bit of steam. This book is definitely worth picking up if you are looking for a story that is truly unique.
Date published: 2010-12-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intense new Urban Fantasy I originally saw this new series by Stacia Kane mentioned on Karen Marie Moning’s blog. She said some really fantastic things about it. She called it “dark, edgy, sexy” and said that it “pushes the envelope.” “Urban Fantasy at its finest” she called it. Well, that definitely caught my attention. So I went to Goodreads to read up on the series. To be honest, after reading the blurbs, I didn’t think I would enjoy the books and decided against checking them out. But the buzz surrounding this book was overwhelming! It was impossible to visit blogland and not see it being raved about. Fiction Vixen – 5 hearts. Wicked Little Pixie – 4.5 stars. All Things Urban Fantasy – 4 bats. Smokin’ Hot Books – 5 smooches! Hmm…Then I thought maybe I was a little quick to dismiss this series. So, while on vacation (which, of course, included a visit to the book store) I picked up “Unholy Ghosts” and read it. And what did I think? The world that Kane created is very interesting. Ghosts have been banished, but some escape (or hide out) and haunt and hurt people. Chess’ job as a Debunker is to get rid of them – to send them back where they should be. Reality for the people of Downside is quite grim. There is no religion as proof of an afterlife has become a scientific fact. The Church (Chess’ employer) rules and pays anyone for the inconvenience of being haunted. Chess must try to disprove their claims. If anyone is caught fabricating a ghost story just to get paid, they are punished – and Chess is rewarded. This is not a fluffy, cutesy bunny rabbits running through a field of yellow buttercup flowers kind of book. This is a raw, gritty and dark story set in an equally raw and gritty setting. It is no way a paranormal romance title – it’s a real urban fantasy tale. You do get a smidgen of romantic tension, but overall the story is about Chess, her mission and her addiction. Chess is one of the most complex characters that I have read in a while. She is a drug addict. At first, I wondered how that would play out and affect her persona – and my opinion of her. It didn’t take long before I noticed that her drug dependence added a vulnerability to her. I like that the ‘high’ aspect of Chess is not played up. This book is not a pro-drug ad, nor is it an anti-drug ad. But the drugs do play an important role in the story. They are part of Chess and her life. They affect her reactions to the situations she is faced with – both good and bad. They show how she has trouble dealing with her life without having a crutch and make you wonder all the more about her and what brought this dependence on. Therefore, you keep reading. Chess is strong and brave, but very human. She feels scared and alone. She has trouble relating to people and forming relationships. I think that is why her relationship with Terrible is so captivating. Terrible is another interesting character. He is not an attractive man; therefore he is not your typical hero. He is Chess’ drug dealers’ strong arm. But he helps Chess along her mission and proves to be invaluable to her and her job. He is a good person and a good guy to have on your side. He may even be a good friend for Chess. Now if only she would let him in… Lex, a competing drug lord’s something (we’re not too sure) is a compelling character too. The ‘street’ dialogue took a little getting used to, but it quickly became an easy reference as to what side of the tracks the characters come from. After a while, it even made me smile. Overall, the story was gripping and hard to put down. The second half of the book was really exciting. The last few chapters were a real rush and impossible to put down. “Unholy Ghosts” is an impressive start to a series that holds great potential. I’m looking forward to reading more about Chess and Terrible in the next book “Unholy Magic”.
Date published: 2010-08-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Holy New Series! Unholy Ghosts is far from the ordinary Urban Fantasy fare. It really steps over the line into different territory and as such, was a pleasure to read, despite the fact that it is dark and gritty and had me squirming at times. It was action packed, well paced, funny and oh yeah, had no vampires or weres of any kind. It also had one of the most anti-hero heroes I have come across in a long time. Chess Putnam is a witch working for the Church of Real Truth as a Debunker. When the Ghosts rose and wiped out a huge portion of the population, it was magic not faith that harnessed them and saved the world. Past religion is in ruins now that the new "Church" is in charge and it has sworn to protect the citizens of the world from the spirits that wish to do them harm. If Chess investigates a ghost report and determines it’s a hoax, she gets a nice hefty bonus. Unfortunately, she spends the majority of her income on her drug habit. That's right, Chess is a major druggie - I did mention that she was a severely flawed hero didn't I? Chess is no stereotypical, cookie-cutter asskicking protagonist. Instead, she is an extremely flawed young woman who makes bad decisions and then has to get herself out of the resulting mess. Chess doesn't consider herself a hero, in fact she's surprised when she realizes that other people think she's brave or powerful. I have to admit, I had a hard time at first getting behind a drug-addicted hero. I was totally turned off everytime she popped a pill or snorted a line and kept waiting for some miraculous intervention that would allow her to see the error of her ways (Hey, just say No). This does not occur (thankfully) and Kane remains true to her character. Chess is just as addicted at the end of the story as she is in the beginning with even more access to her drug of choice than ever thanks to some wheeling and dealing. Of course, I still hold out hope that over the course of the series we'll see Chess work through her addiction but in such a way that the character loses none of her edge. Only time will tell. As the story unfolds, we learn that Chess owes a huge debt to her drug dealer Bump. He offers her a way to work off what she owes. He wants to re-open an small abandoned airport for the purpose of flying in drugs but it seems some paranormal activity is causing him some problems. He can’t exactly call in the Church to check it out so he strong arms Chess into solving his ghost problem. Chess soon comes to realize that the ghost problem is worse than she thought when she discovers evidence of black magic on the scene, something that is forbidden by the Church. To make her problems even worse, a rival gang wants stop Bump from using the airport and they are willing to cut Chess a deal she might not be able to refuse to get her to flip sides. Chess is a resourceful girl and has had more than her fair share of hard knocks. She’ll have to figure a way to play both sides and stay alive. The characters are vivid and even the secondary characters get in-depth treatment. I can’t say enough about the wonderful worldbuilding. Triumph City and The Church of the Real Truth are tangible and downright scary, gritty and dark. I guess that some readers, that are particularly religious, may find the whole premise somewhat offensive. And if you don't like to see the English language butchered you will HATE the way most of Chess' friends and peers talk. They basically all sound like grade three drop-outs. But after I got used to it, I felt it really added to the depth of the characters. Unholy Ghosts is one of the better first books I have read in a long time. It's rich with detail, dark and gritty, and doesn't toe the line in any way shape or form. There is plenty of suspense, lots of action, some very interesting (and sometimes funny) magical ritual, a bit of romance (or something that vaguely passes as romance) and some real emotional ups and downs. Definitely worth checking out if you like a darker read. If you are looking for fluff, don't look here. 2010-139
Date published: 2010-07-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Phenomenal Urban Fantasy In 1997, the Ghosts had a kind of Apocolyps & killed almost all of the World’s population. Now everyone relies on the Church of Real Truth, not Churches of the past. Chess’ job is to check out those who claim they have Ghosts in their houses, if they do indeed have a haunting, The Church will pay them once the Debunker has gotten rid of the ghost. Unholy Ghosts focuses on Chess who is a ghost debunker for the Church of Real Truth & a drug addict with a debt to pay. Chess’ dealer, Bump, has a job for her that will wipe out her drug debt but it requires her to banish whatever is haunting an old airport he wants to reopen. But it isn’t that simple, there’s a rival gang who want Chess to leave whatever is there alone & they’ll pay off her debt to Bump & supply her with free drugs. If only that were all of her problems, it’s not such a simple job to banish a ghost especially when the is dark magic at play that could kill them all. Unholy Ghosts is the first book in Stacia Kane’s Downside Series & it was phenomenal! It is one of the most grittiest, in your face Urban Fantasy’s I’ve ever read & I loved it. It’s not often that I get so excited after reading a book, that I jump on the computer in the middle of the night to type a review. Unholy Ghosts did that for me. From Chess’ drug addiction to her sorta kinda attraction to Bump’s enforcer Terrible, I couldn’t put the book down. When I finished, I had to sit & think about what I read, it’s one of those books. It’s non-stop action, just when you think someones good or bad, your world gets turned upside down. I had thought I knew who was bad, but mid-book Stacia flips the script & you’re right back at the beginning. Chess’ life hasn’t been easy either, she’s been through some hardknocks but she keeps going…even if she is really dependant on her drug of choice, Cepts. Then there is Terrible, who doesn’t speak much but when he does everyone stops to pay attention. Can I just say, I really hope Chess & Terrible get their issues sorted out! I love Terrible too much to see him disappear or not show up in the rest of the series. The world in Unholy Ghosts is crafted unlike any-other, where everyone is at the mercy of The Church of Truth from the Educated to the Under-Educated. If you don’t follow (for lack of a better term) then you have no one to protect you from the Ghosts. Even the language they speak is just so different, you find yourself reading a sentence out loud & grinning at the cadence of it. It rolls off your tounge like a mix of patois & cajun, with some street spice. There’s just so much detail to this book & it’s so complex, but I can’t go to much into detail lest I ruine it for you, but it was an excellent read & one I will recommend for months! Thank the goddesses the next book in the series comes out in July, I don’t think I could wait any longer! Stacia’s previous series (Demons) is nothing at all like Unholy Ghosts, so if you aren’t a fan of Paranormal Romance & find yourself liking darker Urban Fantasy’s or Horror, this one is totally for you. If you loved the Demon series, you’ll appreciate Unholy Ghosts even more, I promise you that! If you read one new Urban Fantasy series, make it Unholy Ghosts. *4.5 Star Review*
Date published: 2010-05-18

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Chapter One“And the living prayed to their gods and begged for rescue from the armies of the dead, and there was no answer. For there are no gods.” —The Book of Truth, Origins, Article 12 Had the man in front of her not already been dead, Chess probably would have tried to kill him. Damned ghosts. A year and a half she’d gone without having to deal with one— the best Debunking record in the Church. Now when she needed her bonus more than ever, there he was. Mocking her. Floating a few feet off the parquet floor of the Sanfords’ comfortable suburban split- level in the heart of Cross Town, with his arms folded and a bored look on his face. “Too good to go where you’re supposed to, Mr. Dunlop?” Mr. Dunlop’s ghost gave her the finger. Asshole. Why couldn’t he just accept the inevitable? He’d been an ass in life, too, according to her rec ords. Hyram Dunlop, formerly of Westside, banker and father of two, all deceased. Mr. Dunlop should have been resting for the last fifty years, not turning up here to rattle pipes and throw china and generally make a nuisance of himself. Right. She set the dog’s skull in the center of the room, checking her compass to make sure she faced east, and lit the black candles on either side of it, her body moving automatically as she arranged her altar the way she’d done dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. Next came the tall forked stang in its silver base, garlanded with specially grown blue and black roses. She set the bag of dirt from Mr. Dunlop’s grave in front of the skull for later use. Her small cauldron in its holder took a few extra minutes to set up. Mr. Dunlop moved behind her, but she ignored him. Showing fear to the dead— or any sort of emotion at all— was asking for trouble. She filled the cauldron with water, lit the burner beneath it, and tossed in some wolfsbane. With a stub of black chalk she marked the front door and started on the windows, stepping deliberately through Dunlop’s spectral form despite the unpleasant chill. The set of his jaw lost some of its defiance as she pulled out the salt and started sprinkling it. “This is probably going to hurt,” she said. Her gaze wandered to the grandfather clock in the corner, just outside the sloppy salt ring. Almost eight o’clock. Fuck. She was starting to itch. Not badly, of course. Nothing she couldn’t handle. But it was there, making her mind wander and her toes wiggle in her shoes, when she needed to be sharp. She’d just begun closing off the hallway when Mr. Dunlop bolted up the stairs. The symbols on the doors and windows— she’d already done the bedrooms— would keep him from leaving the actual building, but . . . shit. She’d forgotten the master bedroom fireplace. The chimney flue. Pausing only long enough to snatch up the bag of grave dirt, she raced after him. The grave dirt wasn’t supposed to come until later, when the psychopomp had already shown up to escort him, but it was the only way she could think of to stop him. Mr. Dunlop’s feet were only just visible when she reached the bedroom, hanging in the fireplace. She grabbed a small handful of dirt and flung it at them. Dunlop fell. His silent lips formed words that were probably not kind. She ignored him, ducking into the fireplace to mark the flue with chalk before he could try again. “There’s no escaping. You know you shouldn’t be here.” He shrugged. From her pocket she pulled her Church- issued Ectoplasmarker— nobody ever said the Church was clever, just that they knew how to protect humanity from spirits— and uncapped it. Dunlop stared up at her, his face rippling in panic. She leaned toward him and he sank through the floor. Before he managed to disappear completely she ran back downstairs and grabbed her salt, finishing the hallway while Dunlop floated through the ceiling— outside of the circle. In the short time they’d been upstairs the atmosphere in the room had changed, her energy mingling with that of the herbs to fill the room with power. Chess glanced at her altar. The dog’s skull rattled and clicked like a set of castanets, rising slightly from the floor. The psychopomp was coming. Dunlop backed away when she started toward him, holding the Ectoplasmarker out in front of her. She’d already memorized his passport symbol. Now she just had to get him back into the circle and get the symbol on him before the dog came. Only once had she heard of a Debunker who didn’t manage it. He got lucky. The dog took the ghost. But that was luck, nothing else. Without the passport, the minute that dog finished materializing could be the last minute of her life. Dunlop bumped into the wall and glanced back, surprised. Ghosts could choose to touch inanimate objects or slide through them . . . until the object was solidified on the metaphysical plane. “I marked them.” She used her foot to break the line of salt. “You can’t get through them. You can’t escape. This will be a lot easier if you just relax and let me do my job, you know. Why don’t you come here and hold your hand out for me?” He folded his arms and shook his head. She sighed. “Okay. Have it your way.” She crushed asafetida between her fingers and sprinkled it over the floor around him. “Hyram Dunlop, I command you to enter this circle to be marked and sent to rest. I command you to leave this plane of existence.” She jumped when the growl echoed through the room and the skull leapt into the air. The rest of the dog flowed into existence behind it, each bone sharp and clean in the wavering candlelight. Shit! Shit, shit. She was still the only one in the circle. Worse, they both smelled of asafetida. She hadn’t rinsed her hands yet. The dog— magically created to sense the herb— wouldn’t know the difference between them. Chess screamed as the skeletal dog lunged at her, skin and fur growing over its bones. She fell into— fell through— Hyram Dunlop. The cold was worse this time, probably because she wasn’t ready for it, or maybe because she was terrified by the sight of those sharp, shiny canine teeth snapping the air only inches from her arm. If they reached her— The dog’s mouth closed around her left calf, pulling. Eyes appeared in the formerly hollow sockets, glowing red, brighter as it firmed its grip and tugged. Behind the dog the air rippled. Shadowy images superimposed themselves over the tasteful taupe walls of the Sanford house, silhouettes gray and black against lit torches. Something inside Chess started to give. The dog— the psychopomp— was doing its job, tugging its lost soul out of the Sanford house and into the city of the dead. But her soul wasn’t lost— at least, not in the way required. Hyram’s eyes widened as she reached for him again, her hand passing through his chest. “Hyram Dunlop, I command you—” The words ended in a strangled gurgle. It hurt, fuck, it really fucking hurt. It was peeling, as if someone was tearing away layers of her skin one by one, exposing every tender, raw nerve she possessed, and she possessed so many of them. Her vision blurred. She could let go, if she wanted to. She could float away— the dog would be gentle once it knew it had her— and vanish, no more problems, no more pain, no more . . . Only the boredom of the city, with nothing to take the edge off. And the knowledge that she’d died a stupid death and let this miserable jerk of a spirit beat her. No. No way. She moved her hand, reaching again for Hyram. This time her fingers connected with something solid, something that felt warm and alive. Hyram. He wasn’t alive. She was dying. But in death she could grab hold of him and drag him into the broken circle. In death she could use the strength of her will to bring the Ectoplasmarker down on Hyram’s suddenly solid flesh. In death she could mark him with his passport, the symbol to identify him to the psychopomp, and physically hold him in place. Desperately she scrawled the figure on his arm, while her soul stretched between Hyram and the dog like a taut clothesline. She didn’t dare look away to see what her physical body was doing. She managed the last line as her vision went entirely black. Pain shot through her as she fell to the floor with a house- rattling thud, but it was physical pain this time, bone pain, not the agony of having her living soul ripped from her body as it had been moments before. She opened her eyes just in time to see Hyram Dunlop disappear through the rippling patch of air. Her fingers scrabbled at the clasp on her heavy silver pillbox, lifting the lid. She grabbed two of the large white pills inside and gobbled them up, biting down so the bitterness flooded her taste buds and made her nose wrinkle. It tasted awful. It tasted wonderful. The sweetest things were bitter on the outside, Bump had told her once, and oh, how right he’d been. Her fingers closed around her water bottle and she twisted off the cap and took a gulp, swishing it around in her mouth so the crushed pills could enter her bloodstream under her tongue, so they could start dissolving before they slid down into her stomach and blossomed from there. Her eyes closed. The relief wasn’t everything it would be in twenty minutes, in half an hour as the Cepts were digested fully. But it was something. The shaking eased enough for her to control her hands again. Cleaning up was the worst part of Banishings. Or rather, it was usually. This time the worst part had been feeling her soul pull from her flesh like a particularly sticky Band- Aid. Carefully she put her altar pieces back in her bag, wrapping the dog skull in hemp paper before setting it on top of everything else. She’d have to buy a new one. This dog had tasted her. She couldn’t use it again. Her Cepts started to kick in as she swept. Her stomach lifted, that odd, delicious feeling of excitement— of anticipation— making her smile without really realizing it. Things weren’t so terrible, after all. She was alive. Alive, and just high enough to feel good about it. The Sanfords arrived home just as she knelt outside their front door with a hammer and an iron nail. “Welcome home,” she said, punctuating her words with sharp taps of the hammer. “You shouldn’t have any more problems.” “He’s . . . gone?” Mrs. Sanford’s dark eyes widened. “Really gone?” “Yep.” “We can’t thank you enough.” Mr. Sanford had a way of speaking, his voice booming out from his barrel chest, that made his voice echo off the stucco walls of the house. “Part of my job.” She couldn’t even bring herself to be mad at the Sanfords right now. It wasn’t their fault they were honest and haunted, instead of faking like ninetynine percent of Debunking cases. She finished driving in the nail and stood up. “Don’t move that, what ever you do. We’ve found that homes where a genuine haunting occurred are more vulnerable to another one. The nail should prevent it.” “We won’t.” Chess put the hammer back in her bag and waited, trying to keep a pleasant smile on her face. Mr. and Mrs. Sanford shuffled their feet and glanced at each other. What were they— Oh. “Why don’t we go on inside, and we’ll finish off your paperwork and get you your check, okay?” The Sanford’s anxious expressions eased. Chess couldn’t really blame them. If she was about to be handed fifty thousand dollars from the Church just because she’d had an escaped ghost in her house, she’d be pretty relaxed, too. Just like she would have felt if she’d gotten her bonus. It would have been ten grand on this job, enough to pay Bump and have something left over until the next one. Stupid ghosts always ruined everything, like loud babies in a nice restaurant. They offered her coffee, which she declined, and water, which she accepted, while they signed various forms and affadavits. It was almost nine- thirty by the time she handed over their check, and she still had to stop by the graveyard before she could get to the Market. Damn Mr. Dunlop. She hoped he was being punished justly.

Editorial Reviews

“Simply the best book I’ve read this year.”—Caitlin Kitteridge


“The ultimate bible of badassery . . . a black diamond of an urban fantasy.”
—Ann Aguirre, national bestselling author of Blue Diablo and Doubleblind

“Gripping . . . vivid characters and a wonderful sense of pace . . . I was enthralled.”—Charlaine Harris