My thanks to Booktasters for a review copy of this one.
Ghost is a murder mystery set in a fantasy world. In this world, all children manifest magical gifts (like the ability to produce fire, to read minds, or more rarely, to turn time or heal others) around the age of fifteen. The gifts can be used on everyone except those they love.
Men (in a reflection of our world) can of course do certain tasks including become Guardians who protect cities from crime, which are closed to women, including our main character Lana. Lana is in her twenties and wanted to be a detective but is now serving as a secretary to the Guardians, the chief in her town (Triville) being her father. In the past, Lana was posted to Mercy House, an institution where girls (only girls) with destructive gifts were sent for these destructive strains to be removed. But in her time there Lana found that this is not the case and these women were actually deprived of all their magic, leaving them as incapables. She helps her friend Rebecca escape this facility promising to meet her back home but before she reaches, Becky is murdered. And Lana has never been able to find out why or by whom.
Meanwhile in the present day, a school girl, Bella, running into the forest after being bullied by her fellow students is murdered. Soon another murder follows. This is suspected to be the work of a serial killer they call the Ghost. Lana is keen to investigate but must tread carefully. An errant guardian from another town, Richard Laine comes into town to investigate the matter as well, since he has been on the trail of the Ghost for long, and solving the case will also help reduce the punishment he has to face for his own indiscretions.
Alongside, the other teens who were teasing Bella are going through their own web of complicated relationships. And they too want to unveil the secrecy surrounding Mercy House, the girls who have been murdered and the guardian who is rumoured to hunt out girls with destructive gifts. They carry out their parallel investigations.
There are also some threads of romance in the story with Lana’s past with the handsome but ambitious guardian Charles, and also the stories of the teens among them, Julia and Elisa and Kyle, brother of Becky.
This was a fun plot combining fantasy and a murder mystery, both of which I enjoy, particularly the latter. I liked that this one had more than one mystery thread as far as the murders were concerned and there are plenty of twists and secrets as well. I didn’t guess until pretty much the reveal, one part of the answer while the other I didn’t see coming. The other plot threads with the issues surrounding Mercy House (not as such a mystery since we know from the start what goes on there) which were also interesting and one wants to know how the matter is resolved.
Lana is a likeable protagonist, determined to solve the mystery at hand and helping girls escape Mercy House for which she can even bend the rules but in matters of the heart, she isn’t above making mistakes. Richard Laine is a flawed character too but when it comes to solving the mystery he is as determined as Lana. The teens we meet are more difficult to classify—one can understand some of their actions in view of the complicated relationships they share and also their determination to escape if need be, Mercy House but the initial bullying scene doesn’t fit in with the shape their characters take later and felt as though it doesn’t fit in even though it has a role in the plot.
While this is a fun enough story, I felt the writing and the dialogue could have been strengthened, which would have made it a far better read.
Still it was a nice read. Oh and yes, it also has some illustrations which I always enjoy.