Ghost Talkers, Historical Fantasy by Mary Robinette Kowal
My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A tightly written, exciting murder mystery with ghosts everywhere. I can’t believe I didn’t read this sooner.
Set during the pressing weight of a war gone far longer than the promised “over by Christmas,” the women of the Spirit Corps bear more than their fare share. Outwardly providers of tea, comfort, and a sense of normalcy, their deeper purpose involves spiritualism and channelling. When a soldier dies, his ghost delivers a final report to the circle of mediums. Obviously this opens up new avenues of information-gathering.
Ginger Stuyvesant may be American, but she has plenty at stake in the war. For one, her fiancé Ben is a British officer stationed at the front. For another, she is English at least in part, through her mother. Ginger is great. She has a strong sense of morality and she will not stand for anyone’s bullshit. One of my favourite recurring things in the narrative were the conversations in which she stood up for herself as competent in the face of the prevailing views on women of the time.
Everything is well executed. Spiritualism may differ from its real life counterpart (by authorial intent), but the structure and workings of the Spirit Corps feel authentic and akin to real things like Bletchley Park. The characters inhabit a very realistically portrayed period range of diversity. One of my favourite characters was Mrs Richardson, an older lady who knits at the speed of lightning. She handed out mufflers and socks like flyers in front of a club. The setting shines, obviously polished by research and passion.
And of course, it’s a pretty darn good mystery. The hook felt so classic I mistakenly thought the text had been bolded. (full disclosure: I am also sleep-deprived.) Suspenseful page-turner qualities juxtaposed with the weariness that is always in the background, and sometimes in the fore. I literally hid outside in the car so I could finish reading this without interruption.
Not to be too optimistic, but so far, 2018 has been good to me. I’ve only read ten books and loved all but one. Either I’m getting better at picking my reading material or I’m heading for a nasty DNF in the near future.