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Mary Robinette Kowal is a unique author. At a glance she is a gentle writer who lulls you into complacency until she twists a knife into your heart. As a result I was frustrated and at the same time in awe while reading Ghost Talkers.
Despite my trouble with some of the accents ( as Mary herself narrated the book and her Scottish, for example, was appalling), this was a superbly atmospheric book. A great sense of the mannerisms of the era, the exhaustion of fighting a senseless war, horrendous losses of life and an urgency to push through all the obstacles to prevent a catastrophe made Ghost Talkers a gripping read.
BEWARE ONE SPOILER OF SOMETHING HAPPENING RIGHT AT THE BEGINNING! Sorry, it's vital for the story that I mention it.
Ginger is a medium and as one she sees and feels through the eyes of dead soldiers who report for duty straight after their deaths to relay important information from the front. Her fiance, Ben, is an intelligence officer and very often absent on his secret missions, so when she sees a suspicious death and her superiors don't take her report seriously, Ginger writes to him and asks for help. Imagine her horror when not long after she sees a ghost of Ben who refuses to cross over before they find his killer.
It's a very well-paced read and what makes it scarily realistic is a sense of casual brutality. Ginger ends up being almost alone at the front trying to find Ben's murderer and as a woman she has very little clout and almost no protection. There are no obvious villains just normal people who are prepared to do unspeakable things serving their countries, and I find that much more chilling.
Overall, a fantastic listen, a likable heroine, a tearjerker of a love story and a book full of memorable, engaging characters. Recommended!
6 of 6 people found this review helpful
Ginger Stuyvesant is a young American heiress, who moves to London to be with her aunt, and meets a British army officer. She and Captain Benjamin Harford become engaged, just in time for World War One.
Ginger and her aunt are both mediums, and in this very slightly alternate world, the British army recognizes a potential advantage. Ginger and her aunt become part of the "London branch," a corps of mediums and their supporting circles. British soldiers are conditioned, by a secret method, to report in to the mediums when they are killed in action. They can't pass beyond the veil until they've made their last report. This gives the British an often critical advantage.
The Germans don't have s similar corps because they still burn witches. They've realized something is going on, though, and are now trying to find the "conditioning" method, so they can have their own similar corps of, as they imagine it, ghost spies.
The "London branch" of mediums is in Le Havre. This is another vital piece of information the Germans don't have. They're not all that far from the front their dead soldiers are reporting in from.
When first an officer who was too persistent with Ginger, and then Captain Harford himself, are killed in circumstances Ginger knows are murder--because both men reported in to her--she's got a problem. General Davies doesn't believe the first officer's death was murder--he was drowned--and he's not going to assign her to investigate Ben's death.
But with Ben's ghost sticking around, telling her he'd discovered a traitor in their midst, but can't remember critical information, she has little choice. Gen. Davies won't believe her, but there's a traitor to be caught.
It's World War One. Some of their best mediums are West Indian. Some of their best soldiers are Indian. And both are undervalued by the British. Ginger, uncomfortably aware that she shared those attitudes not long ago, has had her viewpoint changed by working with those West Indian mediums. With her own circle, her aunt (also a medium), Ben's ghost, and Ben's batman, she sets out to find the traitor.
It's a nicely done wartime mystery, with their biggest but far from only problem being that they have no idea who they should trust and who they shouldn't. Ginger is smart, capable, and tough, but, medium or not, not superhuman. Ben's problems with remaining coherent become greater and greater as he stays on this side longer and longer, but he can't leave until he has "finished his business."
A very engaging tale. Recommended.
I received a free copy of this audiobook from Audible, in exchange for an honest review.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful