“City of Ghosts” by J.H. Moncrieff

“City of Ghosts” is a ghost story with a strange problem; there isn’t much “ghost” in it. Not for fans of the ghoulish, anyway. And as a fan of the non-ghoulish, I appreciate that a great deal. Once I got used to the fact that this was a story about people and their own problems, I stopped expecting the ghost to show up every page or so and started to enjoy the reactions of the main character to his dilemma.

A note about characterization. I have taken several tours of the sort Jacks is on in the story. I quite enjoy them. And while I suppose it is possible that two people would get on each others’ nerves enough to start screaming matches after the first week, it is rather unusual. Plus it is unlikely that such an upset would occur so suddenly, and without apparent motivation. And since that conflict has very little to do with the main action, I don’t really see the reason for including it. A little subtlety in human interaction among the minor characters would have been more realistic.

Likewise the tour guide, who is cast as the villain of the piece from the start, has little subtlety. Twists and turns the plot may have, but there are few surprises.

The strength of the story is the writing style. The first person main character, Jackson, is wonderful. He is sympathetic, well rounded and slightly edgy, and we fall in line with his objectives easily.

I enjoyed the flow of the story. The secondary plot – his romance with Kate – was rather predictable, in pleasant contrast to the sharp nastiness of the supernatural element of the main plot. Pacing was great, with a constant supply of new elements to the conflict at all the right places. Dialogue, especially that inside Jackson’s head, was realistic, drawing us into his feelings from the first page.

And as far as the supernatural element, it did not appear often, but when it did, it made up for the lack. If ghosts are like that, I don’t want anything to do with them.

Top marks for main characters. Not so happy with the supporting cast. Recommended for Supernatural fans and those who enjoy good travel adventure.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)





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