Ghost Hunter, by Jayne Castle

11 Aug

While reading other things, I’m currently indulging in a Jayne Castle’s Harmony series binge, because they are basically enjoyable light reading, and I can listen to them at work.¹

If light paranormal world building and somewhat graphic sex are not your thing, you will want to give these stories a pass.

Ghost Hunter, by Jayne Castle

This is the third full length novel in the series, and it’s again set in the city of Cadence, though both of the main characters hail from Aurora Springs, one of the smaller towns relatively close by.

Setting the story here means that we get a couple of glimpses of Lydia, Emmett and the ever lovable Fuzz, from After Dark and After Glow.

Though, of course, he is not the only dust bunny afoot.

Here’s the meh blurb:

Where deadly energy ghosts lurk in the ruins of an ancient alien civilization. Where dust bunnies prove to be loyal pets. And where a ghost hunter will discover that a woman’s heart is the most dangerous adversary of all…

Local Guild boss and powerful ghost-hunter Cooper Boone is everything botanist Elly St. Clair could ask for – the handsome, strong, and silent type. Maybe too silent. For when Guild secrets threaten her career at the college, Elly has to call off their marriage – and leave small-town life behind…

But starting over in the thriving metropolis of Cadence City isn’t easy, especially when one of Elly’s new friends disappears in the eerie catacombs beneath the streets. Cooper turns up just in time to help Elly investigate. And as the mystery deepens and dangerous ghost myths and legends come to light, Cooper makes it clear he intends to stick around – and this time he’s holding nothing back…

Elly has left small town life behind, and with it, all the constraints of being the daughter of one of the most notable families there. Not only is her father a member of the Hunters’ Guild, but she can trace her ancestry, on both sides of her family, to the founders of the local guild. As such, she’s lived her life in a fish bowl: always aware of what her actions say about her family, and of what anyone approaching her may want or expect.

After six months in Cadence, she has already made a modest success of her little shop. Being a friendly and caring person, she has also been readily accepted into the community of small business owners nearby.

When Cooper shows up, the same night one of Elly’s friends goes missing, there is no reason for her to hesitate in asking him for help. He may have wanted to marry her only because of how such a marriage would benefit him and the Aurora Springs Hunters’ Guild, but he is a very strong hunter and a decent enough person, after all. The worst that can happen is that he’ll refuse. What she doesn’t know is that Cooper is in Cadence specifically to seek her out, which means he’s already in.

Searching for Elly’s  friend leads the pair to discover something extraordinary, something that has, so far, been relegated to the realm of myth: a different type of ‘ghost’ energy.

I must now pause to refer to the world building, because these are the things that jar me out of the narrative–not enough to stop reading, just enough to wish authors thought things through a bit more carefully. (If world building doesn’t matter to you, skip the next few paragraphs.)

I have mentioned in previous reviews that it’s pretty basic. Ms Castle goes to pains to change language enough to maintain internal consistency; i.e., you rez a car or a light, not start or turn on. Things don’t ‘ring a bell,’ they ‘resonate,’ and so on. There is an official history, going back two hundred years to the colonization of the planet, and many of the social rules that govern the human colonists in the present date back to, and are explained by, the desperate straits the original group found itself in after they lost contact with Earth.

However, two centuries is barely enough time for the relatively sweeping History of the Colonies that is supposed to have occurred; it’s barely ten generations. In that time, we are supposed to have:

  • the landing of Earth ships and discovery of the abandoned ruins on planet
  • the establishment of first settlements
  • the ‘gradual’ development and discovery of psy powers in the human population
  • the ‘closing of the curtain’ stranding colonists in Harmony
  • the development of the Federation of City States, in order to ensure the survival of humans on the planet
  • full development of two distinct psy talents: ghost hunting and psychic trap ‘tangling’
  • the Era of Discord (wherein a crazy mofo plots to become OneTrueLeader of all humans in Harmony)
  • the defeat of crazy mofo and founding of all the Hunters’ Guilds

Keep in mind, in these stories time frame, the first Guild Boss in Aurora Spring was Elly’s ‘many times great’ grandfather. Two hundred years is simply not enough time for all this stuff to have happened, and be so many generations removed from present memory, that knowledge has been lost. More so, because we are not starting in the Middle Ages on Earth. We are starting in the Space Age, in a strange planet; presumably, record keeping is paramount to ensure survival.

At any rate, the previous rant relates to a key plot point: rare psy abilities, some of which have been kept a secret because reasons, and some that are new and developing, as generations of humans are born on the planet. To no one’s surprise, both Elly and Cooper have rare psy abilities, which help them find Elly’s friend, and ultimately solve a number of crimes.

I like this one very much, mostly as a mystery. The plot is tight, whit a number of separate threads and red herrings, and the solution is pretty satisfactory. Also, since both of the protagonists’ special gifts are revealed to the reader quite early in the story, the denouement felt organic, rather than contrived.

I also liked that the world is expanded in this novel, in a number of ways. We continue to learn more about the history of the colonists, as well as what they know,and what they continue to learn, about their world.

While I was not blown away by either of the main characters, or the romance, I enjoyed the story well enough.

I like that Elly would not let herself be pushed into an exclusively dynastic marriage, and that her decision to move away didn’t mean she was estranged from her family. She is the youngest of four, and the only female. Being the youngest of five myself, with three older brothers, I was tickled by Elly’s recounting how she learned to deal with overbearing older siblings. It is notable that, despite having reasons to keep her psy ability hidden, Elly doesn’t hesitate to use it to succeed in her chosen business.

And, as always, I really appreciate that she saves herself, and her friend Dorrine, not once but twice.

Of the two, however, I liked Cooper a bit better, probably because he’s written as someone who was always a bit out of step with the rest of his peers. As a child, instead of fairy tales, he read history. Instead of going to amusement parks, he read on politics and economics. He has been single minded all his life, from a very early age, over one specific goal–until he meets Elly, and realizes he can aspire to more.

As Elly tells him at one point, he tends to overthink some things, like, say, relationships, but even that was endearing to me. Mind you, he’s not utterly socially awkward or entirely humorless; but his humor is subtle. There is a scene with Emmett and Lydia where this is demonstrated in a delightful manner.

Rose, the dust bunny, is a great addition to the cast. Like Fuzz before her, Rose has a distinct personality that feels engaging rather than cloying, and plays a key role in the story. Speaking of characters, Ms Castle has a wonderful gift for making me care about secondary characters, no matter how briefly they show on the page, to the point where I was rather annoyed at her at one point in the first chapter…but I’ll let you discover why.

If you are looking for something easy and entertaining to read, you can’t go wrong with these novels. Ghost Hunter gets a 7.75 out of 10.

~ * ~

¹ As I am listening to these instead of reading, I feel I must point out that there was a change in narrator for this novel–and I wasn’t impressed. Mind you, she wasn’t horrible, but the voice actress who narrated After Dark and After Glow was fantastic, with a wide range of voices, both male and female, while this one…was not. I was particularly put off by how she voices Lydia, who sounded like someone who was incredibly bored, yet speaking through clenched teeth.



2 Responses to “Ghost Hunter, by Jayne Castle”

  1. Frances 15/08/2017 at 5:36 PM #

    Yesterday, having read Ilona Andrews latest ( the absolutely terrific Wildfire)) three times and then listened to Renee Raudman’s excellent narration of all three books in the Hidden Legacy series, I realised it was time to read something different and decided a revisit to Jayne Castle/ JAK Harmony books was overdue.
    I downloaded Ghost Hunter, a favourite in the series, and am about halfway through and find I agree 100% with your comments regarding the narration. The male voices were yuk and Lydia sounded pained. The narrator’s normal reading voice was okay so maybe she should have avoided trying to differentiate voices since she did it so poorly.
    Like you I enjoyed the audio versions of After Dark and After Glow which makes this doubly disappointing.

    • azteclady 15/08/2017 at 8:48 PM #

      The good news is that the original narrator narrates the next two books (so far, perhaps all the rest of the series, haven’t gotten that far yet)

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