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Here is the third Greywalker mystery featuring Harper Blaine—a former ballerina turned private detective who, since a near-death experience two books ago, can see, move, and act inside the realm between the natural and the supernatural, called the Grey. Harper has already added experience with vampires, revenants, and poltergeists to her curriculum vitae. In this third outing, she gets to add zombies and a native American monster named Sisiutl.
She loses a boyfriend who can’t handle the truth about creepy, crawly, paranormal stuff. She gains a boyfriend who is right in the thick of it. She wrecks her car, messes with the home lives of her friends Ben and Mara, throws a monkey-wrench into an NSA spook’s mission to reacquire an asset (which, in plain English, means rounding up a runaway spook), and inadvertently gets in homicide Detective Solis’s way—again. She explores the underworld of subterranean streets and street people lurking beneath downtown Seattle, the wisdom of a century-old witchy Indian woman, and the powerful uses of a weaponized pheasant feather. Listening the audio-book narrated by the very talented Mia Barron, I can’t help wondering whether it’s a coincidence that “Solis” sounds like “soulless.” But so far, that is one avenue the Greywalker has not explored.
Harper’s tech guy Quinton—the computer whiz who installed her office’s security system—becomes her client and, eventually, her lover, and she learns more about him than she ever expected to know. She learns how he lives “off the grid,” and what he is hiding from. She learns about his concern for the homeless people around Seattle’s skid row, especially during one particularly cold winter when several of them have disappeared. In a few cases, grisly remains have turned up—sometimes only a few body parts—but always looking like something has been chewing on them.
And then, of course, there are the zombies. Harper’s relationship with sexy, normal Will hits the skids when a shaggy creature out of native American mythology brings her a shambling corpse and demands that she do her Greywalker thing to it, right in the middle of a romantic date. Things weren’t going so well, anyway; Harper was tired of having to keep her newfound world a secret from the man closest to her. But is she ready for a relationship with a man who has dangerous secrets of his own?
As Harper pursues her investigation, she gets immersed in the history of Seattle’s underbelly—especially as it impacts, and is impacted by, the nearby Indian tribes, the city’s periodic earthquakes, and the colorful characters who lead forgotten lives in its parks, squares, and tunnels. She grows convinced that one of these homeless people is controlling a monster that wears many forms, but that in its most basic form is a giant shaggy serpent with two snake heads (one at each end) and a human head in the middle. It then becomes a matter of finding out who, and why, and how to stop them before more innocent people become Sisiutl-chow. Even Harper, who has been killed before and lived to regret it, has no idea how dangerous this will be.
Slightly shorter than the first two books in this series, Underground is a fast-paced mystery full of supernatural weirdness, danger, and excitement. It has no lack of steamy romantic zest; indeed, an “Adult Content Advisory” applies. Nor does it skimp on the crime-solving procedures that will interest mystery fans. And though at times Harper’s questioning of the usual suspects around Occidental Park seems to be going in circles, the book overall is tightly written, lean and compelling. There seems to be plenty of room for Harper’s power and purpose to grow. Rely on it, I’ll be checking out the fourth book in the series, titled Vanished.