CITY OF GHOSTS (Downside Ghosts #3)
Some days it just didn't pay to get out of bed; in that sense at least, this day was no different from any others.
That about sums up Chess Putnam's life at the moment. Her relationship with perhaps the only person she's ever truly cared about is broken; a deep fissure of betrayal running through it that she fears is beyond repair. Add that to her persistent drug habit, a forced partnership with a member of the elite Black Squad, and dismembered body parts showing up all over Downside, and you have a little glimpse of a day in the life of Chess.
While struggling with an emotional upheaval, Chess must soldier on and work with Lauren, a fiery redhead whose status in the Church is augmented through a blatant case of nepotism, in order to find those responsible for Downside's latest gruesome deaths. Lauren and Chess's partnership is strained at best, with Lauren pulling rank and disregarding Chess's valid observations in favor staying on task. Lauren's refusal to acknowledge that coincidences aren't particularly common in Downside forces Chess to seek out reluctant assistance from Terrible.
Now, with their respective hearts in tatters, Chess and Terrible must stalk a killer more powerful than anyone the Church has faced before, and one with magic of unimaginable darkness and a vendetta that can only be appeased through total destruction and anarchy.
Ms. Kane has an uncanny ability to write a novel laced with such tangible tension that the very pages seem almost thicker with it. The vestiges of Chess's relationship with Terrible haunt her every waking moment, and even her sleeping ones, causing her search for oblivion to increase exponentially. Every snippet of dialogue between them has a venomous edge, his hurt and pain at her actions in the previous novel leaking into their every interaction. Each verbal lash he dispenses, though valid, seems to reverberate down the spine of the book, creating an echoing tension that coils in my gut as I hang on every word. It's absolutely captivating.
In the previous two novels, the cases Chess is working have been at the forefront, with Chess's personal life being only a gratifying yet secondary storyline. In this newest installment however, her relationship with Terrible is thrust into prominence in all it's gut-wrenching glory, giving us a closer look at both character's pain and vulnerability, and making our connection to them that much deeper and more potent.
And though the relationship becomes a greater focus, the newest set of Downside villains does not disappoint. They are perhaps more horrifying, more deserving of our utter shock and awe, and more clever than their predecessors. New types of magic are introduced, darker, blacker and more sinister, rattling the very foundation of Chess's entire belief system. Now not only can Chess not trust in herself, but she's faced with the prospect of not being able to trust in the Church, which just might be enough to ruin her entirely and leaves readers reeling from the latest set of revelations.
Downside is an unbelievable place in which to get absorbed. The characters are in ruin, yet have such strength. The supernatural beings are terrifying and seemingly unbeatable, yet we are given hope that light might prevail. And the story is wrought with anxiety and extreme hostility, yet poignant just when the tension threatens to overwhelm.
Perhaps most satisfying is an ending that leaves us with a sliver of faith that Chess and Terrible's road to redemption, though certainly assured to be difficult still, may be paved with smoother stones than those of the one leading up to this point. This series is addicting, and I'm as sure to enter withdrawal waiting for the next book as Chess would be without her drug of choice.