In the sixth Greywalker novel, Harper Blaine—a private eye who has one foot in the world of magic—is doing a little pre-trial footwork for a Seattle attorney when a ghost hires her to solve his murder. Joined first by her pet ferret Chaos, and later by her techie-spook boyfriend Quinton, she spends this book investigating two cases in the Olympic Peninsula, a region of Washington state that may already seem familiar to fans of the Twilight series. Lack of sparkly vampires notwithstanding, it proves to be a mystery fraught with darkness, danger, encounters with otherworldly beings, and a war between mages over control of the energies welling up from a lake full of ancient ghosts.
Some of the persons, places, and things Harper meets in this book are flat-out freaky. There are these white deer sort of things, that are actually demons from Diyu, the Chinese version of hell. A related demon likes more human, and shows a child-like love for shiny toys and pretty clothes. They go almost to your heart… until you realize that they eat people in order to gain enlightenment, hoping eventually to become wise enough to escape from Diyu. Then there is this life-form called the Ley Weaver, who possesses a ghastly facsimile of a human body and, aided by giant spiders in the form of human hands, creates living art-works out of pure magic, memories of the past, and the lingering spirits of the dead. And all that is besides magicians known as the Puppet Master (specialty: zombies), the Rogue (specialties: hiding in the woods and commanding an army of bears), the East (specialty: getting people to do what she wants, and wanting all the power for herself), and the Child (specialty: murder).
While her corporate-lawsuit case seems to be getting nowhere, Harper chases down these leads and more. At first she only wants to find out who caused the fiery crash whose ghostly victim visited her on the side of the road. It’s tough to prove who murdered a man when no one knows a murder took place. So that means finding out why nobody reported Stephen Leung’s death, who stood to gain from it, and where they hid the body. Don’t ask how she finds the body, inside the charred wreck of a car sunk at the bottom of a thousand-foot-deep lake; that’s a magical secret you’ll have to learn by reading the book. But when that five-year-old cold case leads to the death of a police officer, things heat up quickly.
Suddenly the suspects include a federal officer, the surviving children of the first victim, and other people and things too weird to mention. And Harper’s job has grown beyond her original plan to solve a murder. She must also put back an anchor that is supposed to hold the magic of Lake Crescent in its rightful place. She must face a roomful of power-crazed magic-users in a classic “whodunit” scene straight out of Agatha Christie, only with a battle against Native American storm spirits at the end. And she must do it without getting killed again, because she has bonded with Quinton in a spookily close way (ahem—Adult Content Advisory). Now if she gets hurt, it could really hurt him too.
Not content to let each book in her series of paranormal mysteries re-set to the same pattern as all the previous ones, author Richardson continues to let her tough heroine change and evolve. Harper has died twice so far in this series, and with each death comes a different set of powers and vulnerabilities. Her supporting cast is also growing dynamically, as it looks like the Danziger family (her original mentors in all things Grey) may be moving away, and several other recurring characters have already been killed off. It’s not the sort of series where you can skip a book or two and know exactly what’s going on when you tune back in. But on the plus side, you never feel like you’re reading the same book two or three times in a row. And that’s encouraging as there are at least two more books in the series so far: Seawitch and Possession.