Writing suspense stories in the single dimension of this world is hard enough.
That is what makes the effort by New Jersey author Reyna Favis remarkable and such fun: Her Zackie stories about a Psychopomp in the form of a Plott hound and her human and ghostly companions take place in two dimensions with spirits and human engaged in crime solving.
Full disclosure: I am a mystery writer (just in one dimension) and a member with Reyna in the Phillipsburg (NJ) writers group. I have heard parts of this story.
In the fourth book in the Zackie series, Soul Seek, American ghost hunter Fia and her entourage are lodged in a manor house in the Scottish Highlands.
A cold draft leaking from the wall sends Fia down a dark passage to find a dead baby and the spirit of a fiddler James MacPherson.
The death of the child activates Fia and her human crew to find the cause of the child’s death.
The fun part of these stories is that their role not just crime solving but soul solving: Fia and Cam and the others, with Zackie, are determined to soothe the worries of the dead who have not passed to the afterlife so they can pass on with Zackie’s help.
The spirits in these books are not haunting presences but humans lost in a void They had human lives and now have spirit lives that are played out with insight, at times sympathy, and others, scorn, but at all times with a brute honesty.
The tangle in this involving tale is the sudden alliance between MacPherson and Hannah, the dead, protective and jealous wife of Lucas Tremaine, a producer of a ghost chasing reality TV show, and Fia’s love interest.
Hannah is the kind of spirit who in full pique drains the batteries of the humans’ vehicles.
The interplay between the humans and the dead in Soul Seek is delicious, at time hilarious and drives the story forward.
Two scenes to ponder.
In one, Hannah, MacPherson and baby Lorna are in the hallways of the manor filling the house with screaming and yelling. Cam orders all concerned to be quiet as Zackie calms the dead child, telling them all to stop shouting or they will wake the baby.
Think about that a moment.
The other scene takes place at the crossroads that has played a prominent part in a previous story.
This scene shows Favis at her orchestrating best.
The TV production crew is terrorized as something unseen smashes their vehicles.
That unseen presence is Sigurd the Mighty, back in this world to terrorize. Along with him is Modwen, his daughter, angry with Sigurd because she was sacrificed at the time of his death to provide him companionship.
The bickering between the two is as modern as any teen-age daughter/father dispute.
Add Hannah to the mix, talking to both the humans and the dead, and then the humans talking among themselves and conversing with the dead and the scene is as fascinating, engaging, horrifying and fun – and as well conceived and written as anything else you might read today.
This story will haunt you in delightful way.