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Goat Heads and Sand Burrs, P. Kirby's Reading Blog

The good, bad, and fugly books I've read.
Unholy Magic - Stacia Kane In which Chess Putnam goes Hollywood.

Sort of....

Unholy Magic, book two of Downside Ghosts, finds our intrepid, pill-popping heroine doing her debunking thing in the sprawling mansion of a successful television actor. The actor, wealthy and hardly struggling to pay the utility bills, isn't her typical "client."

In Chess's world, ghosts aren't the cheerful necroplasm that shows up at hokey seances, but rather malevolent entities that want to eat your brains. Zombies, sans the rot, but ten times the hate. The only thing standing between humanity and the hungry ghosts is the Church of Real Truth.

The Church offers a kind of money-back guarantee that it will protect the populace from ghosts, so naturally, anybody with a past-due mortgage is tempted to fake a haunting. This is where Chess comes in, debunking false hauntings, authenticating the (rare) real.

Since the actor is loaded, money doesn't seem to be a motive and as Chess digs deeper, it seems the haunting might actually be authentic. Which is a serious bummer, because Chess really needs the financial payoff from a fake haunting, especially since her drug habit is still going strong.

Meanwhile, someone is killing prostitutes in Downside, in both territories of Chess's favorite, rival, drug lord's enforcers, Terrible and Lex, where Lex is her bed buddy and Terrible....is well, not...yet. The perp is stealing the prostitutes' eyeballs and enslaving their ghosts in order to create an undead whorehouse. Yep, just another sunshiny day in Downside.

The neat thing about this series is that Kane infuses the story with genuine chills, deeply creepy moments, along with gore. The weak aspect of the first book, Unholy Ghosts, Chess's rather effortless and trouble-free addition to illegal drugs, now develops into a genuine problem. In Unholy Magic, Chess starts to suffer the consequences of her almost non-stop consumption of "cepts" and other happy pills. The narrative acknowledges the fact that drug addicts are whiny, self-centered twits and that it's hella hard to do your day job when you go into itchy-scratchy fits when deprived of pharmaceuticals.

And...a drug habit is a wide-open invitation to blackmail.

I'm giving this one four stars in optimistic anticipation that later titles will be even better. (This being a series, I expect Downside Ghosts to peak around book four or five, then start the downhill decline after that. I hope I'm wrong, but seven seems to be the expiration date for most series. We'll see.)