Title: The Hanged Man’s Ghost (The Night Wars #1)
Author: Missouri Dalton
Buy link: Amazon.com (Second Edition)
Genre: paranormal mystery
Length: Novel (264 pdf pages)
Rating: 4.25 out of 5 stars
A Guest Review by Feliz
Summary Review: This book was original, endlessly entertaining, deliciously quirky and contained a sweet romance that went straight to my heart
The Blurb: Detective Fynn Adder is embarking on the case that will change his life forever. The ghosts of murder victims are leaving him clues, his drinking problem is out of control, and no matter how nepotistic the Chicago Police Department might be, there are some forces his family’s reputation can’t save him from.
Just a few years ago, Fynn’s longtime partner Robert was murdered and the case went unsolved. As he gets deeper into a new investigation, it becomes apparent that somehow the two cases are connected. To make matters worse, it’s clear to Fynn that forces beyond this world have come into play.
Forces like Internal Affairs agent Daniel Voight, who’s determined to make dirt stick to Fynn any which way he can. The only real bright points in Fynn’s day are when he’s with Jack, his unfortunately straight partner. Fynn is going to have to pull himself together–because if the dead don’t kill him, his family will.
The Review: “Bleeding blue for the city” is what Fynn calls his family tradition, meaning that almost every single member of his family – except for his mother – works in Chicago law enforcement, like their ancestors did before them for four generations. The family tradition surely came in handy lately to keep IA off Fynn’s back, because since his life partner was murdered a few years ago, Fynn turned into what he calls himself a “functioning alcoholic”. Not to mention his habit of hooking up with random men, another one every night, and his frequently showing up for work hungover and late. It isn’t as if Fynn was a bad detective, he still fastens on his cases like a pitbull on a bone until he’s caught his killer. But he’s spiraling downward, he knows it, yet can’t make himself care, despite the efforts of his partner Jack (who Fynn has a huge crush on even though Jack is straight, married and has a daughter) and Fynn’s family.
However, just when Fynn thinks his life can’t get worse, it does. The sister of one of Fynn’s former lovers is found dead, and her spirit demands from Fynn he finds her killer. Then, his dead lover shows up, telling Fynn painful truths. Next, a case of attempted suicide turns out to be a case of demonic possession. And all the ancient, dark vileness seems to be connected to Fynn or indeed aimed at him somehow. But who’d believe him if he told anybody what he thought was going on? They’d attribute it to delirium tremens most probably and put him in an institution. Fynn needs to catch this killer, and fast, because the noose is tightening, and it’s Fynn’s neck that’s in it.
Fynn tells this story from his 1st person POV, and his voice captured me from the first word. Snarky and ironic at times; factual and resigned, or passionate, when it comes to his job; besotted when he talks about Jack. Fynn is a wonderfully multi-faceted character with quirks and habits that made him human, and dear to me.
One thing that stood out with Fynn was his religiosity. He’s Catholic, and although he doesn’t very much live according to the rules of his religion, his faith is an integral part of his personality. He goes to Confession as a matter of course, and his deepset belief in the supernatural as stated by the doctrine of his church helps him deal with the weird course his reality takes once the first ghost contacts him.
Actually, Fynn’s attitude toward the supernatural sets the tune here. The story gives good old-fashioned demon hunter vibes, shot through with a little exorcism and Sidhe lore. The ghosts and demons in here are quite substantial, they have claws and teeth to hurt humans – and others of their own kind. I found the paranormal/ fantasy elements particularly well done, unusual enough to be original while still keeping close enough to the familiar that they didn’t need to be explained down to the smallest detail.
Now Jack, Fynn’s partner, we only see him through Fynn’s loving eyes, and so his portrayal might be hued a little pink. Even so, Detective Jack Winchester seems to be a great person, courageous, confident and loyal to a fault. He and Fynn just made a lot of sense together in every which way. Jack was the only one who always really had Fynn’s back, even when Fynn’s otherwise supportive family failed him; the trust between these two men was palpable.
However, Jack was also one of the small problems I had with this story. He remained a little obscure, particularly about his past, and so when parts of it where revealed, they came as some kind of convenient solution for one of the many plot twists. The same was true for Jack’s wife Cassie, who acted pretty much according to the expected cliché that she was. Tara, Jack’s daughter, on the other hand, was an asset to the story, as was Fynn’s crazy, overbearing, secretive family and some of Fynn’s exes, dead as well as alive.
The plot line went straight and strong for about half of the book up to the catastrophic anticlimax of Fynn’s breakdown after his grueling encounter with a man-eating demon. But after that, the main storyline suddenly fringed out into many small subplots. Not that those weren’t great little stories in their own rights, mind you, but they did next to nothing to forward the main story. I couldn’t help feeling like I was in a computer game, the kind where the player persona needs to solve various minor riddles along their way in order to ascend to the next game level/ be awarded with the next clue. Now I happen to like this kind of game, so I enjoyed these diversions for the most part, but they got a bit much after a while even for me. Less could’ve been more here.
Editing proved an issue here, unfortunately. An ancestor who suddenly went by another name, an incident in a bathtub that became an incident in a swimming pool a few pages later… slips of the pen actually, but they added up in a way that made me more impatient towards the minor things like typos and grammar errors. Too bad for this otherwise well-written book, since I like the author’s style. The writing is detailed through slow parts of the story and becomes dry, concise and clipped through fast-moving parts and emotionally charged scenes, which adds nicely to the dynamic of the latter. Oh, and for those who need to know, the sex scenes are mostly fade to black or outlined with a few words, at most.
Despite some minor niggles, I immensely enjoyed this well-thought out, colorful story. Hopefully there will be more about Fynn, Jack, and the Special Division in the future. I’m looking forward to that.