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Thursday, March 1, 2012

Heather Graham's "Ghost Walk"

Author: Heather Graham
Title: Ghost Walk
Plot Type: Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Ratings: V4; S4; H2
Publisher: Mira (originally published 2005, reissued 1/2012)

     This book preceded and is related to Graham's KREWE OF HUNTERS series, in which a secret government unit works on various ghostly assignments under the oversight of Adam Harrison, famed paranormal investigator. Ghost Walk is set in New Orleans, where Nikki DuMonde is the manager of a ghost-tour company called Myths & Legends of New Orleans. She supervises a team of five tour guides, all of whom have become her friends. Nikki has always had a feeling for the spirits of the dead. She doesn't actually see ghosts, but she feels their presence as she guides tourists past the "haunted" homes and spectral cemeteries in and around the French Quarter. One night, Nikki awakens in the middle of the night to find Andrea Ciello (one of the tour guides) standing by her bed begging for help. When Andrea disappears, Nikki is sure that it was a dream. Then, the next morning, a police officer arrives to tell her that Andrea has been found dead of a heroin overdose. Nikki is certain that Andrea was murdered, but the police at first believe that Andrea, a former drug user, relapsed to her old drug-addicted life. 

       Meanwhile, while, Brent Blackhawk is sent by Adam Harrison to assist the New Orleans Police Department in their investigation of the apparent murder of an undercover FBI agent, Tom Garfield. The cause of Garfield's death was a heroin overdose. Brent puts two and two together and theorizes that Andrea's death and Garfield's death may be connected. Brent was born and raised in New Orleans, but then moved around the country with his part-Lakota, part-Irish family. He is a widower whose young wife was killed by a stray drive-by bullet and is now entombed in a New Orleans cemetery. Since childhood, Brent has been able to see and communicate with ghosts.

     Nikki keeps pressuring the police to investigate Andrea's death as a murder. She describes to them a disheveled man who bumped into them at a café the night before Andrea's death, and slowly the police begin to believe herespecially since, by this time, Brent is insisting that the two deaths are linked. While Brent is meeting with Owen Massey and Marc Joulette, the detectives assigned to both cases, Nikki visits the police station to look at mug shots, trying to identify the bum from the café. Brent, in a moment of inspiration, shows her a picture of Tom Garfield andsure enoughhe is the "bum" in question. The two detectives don't believe Nikki, but Brent does. Nikki and Brent are immediately attracted to one another, and that attraction builds throughout the book. The two story threads interweave their romance and their detective work.

     The casework plot thread follows Brent and Nikki as Brent works on the case and Nikki keeps seeing two ghosts—Andrea and Tomboth of whom try to give her clues. Eventually, the story deteriorates into a mishmash of dirty politics and drug dealing. Graham provides a huge list of possible suspects, including both police detectives, Nikki's fellow tour guides, a maverick FBI agent, a voodoo medium, and the owner of the café.

     The story is very well told, right up until the end, when it kind of spins out of control as Graham drops in way too many red herrings in an attempt to keep the reader guessing. The resolution is, in places, beyond the scope of believability. Until then, though, the story provides plenty of spine tingles and goose bumps. The main characters are well developed and mostly likable, although Nikki gets a little too stubborn and whiny in several scenes. If you like ghost stories, you'll find plenty of spooky spirits here, from the apparitions of recent murder victims to the ghost of a former slave.

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