by Kat Richardson
Recommended Ages: 14+
Greywalker, Seattle-based private detective Harper Blaine takes further steps toward understanding her strange new ability to see, and move around in, the world of ghosts, vampires, and necromancers. Months after her cases start to get weird—thanks to a near-death-experience that gave her this unwanted talent—Harper gets called in to catch whoever is faking results in a college psychology experiment. The paranormal catch is that the experiment uses a group of volunteers to create a Poltergeist.
Nothing quite as flamboyant as Peeves, this byproduct of "psychokinesis by committee" shouldn't be doing much more than making a table shake and causing the lights to flicker—nothing that couldn't be faked, either on purpose or by accident. In this case, however, the apparent faker is putting out way too much power for the study's combination of psychobabble and high-tech fakery to explain. This means either someone is sabotaging the study, or something really weird is going on.
The research has to do with exploiting the tensions within a group of people, and giving them permission to do things as a group that they would never dream of doing on their own. Study protocols require the research team to be in control of what is fake and what is real. As knocks and rattles escalate to rampaging furniture and projectile jewelry, people start to get hurt. Harper suspects something really "Grey" may be happening, but she will have a hard time proving that to her client. She'd better hustle, though. Because no sooner does she take the case, than the entity created by the experiment kills one of the participants. So much for group-think phenomena!
Could the experiment have conjured up something really powerful? Obviously yes! The bigger question is whether the nature of the experiment, and the way it was run, might have turned loose a real, flesh-and-blood psychopath. As the answer to that question leans increasingly toward another Yes, Harper's problem becomes figuring out who the killer is and how to stop them, while keeping clear of a homicide detective who will never believe the truth. With the deadly entity drawing power from Harper herself (among others), and the group dynamics of the test subjects heating up like a pressure cooker, and her own client trying to frame her and her technical consultant for theft, Harper has no choice but to accept more of the paranormal gift that she never wanted. She will need the help of a witch and her parapsychologist husband, the advice of three pre-teen ghost whisperers, the expertise of the second-scariest vampire in the Pacific Northwest (hint: he doesn't sparkle in sunlight), and some new ghost-busting kung-fu moves to stop a rage-fueled thought-entity before it becomes a serial killer.
This is the second of (so far) eight books in the ongoing Greywalker series. It combines a touch of romance, a streak of warm family comedy (featuring a rambunctious toddler who thinks he is a rhinoceros), a tightly paced detective story cooked over-medium (if not hard-boiled), a glimpse into the dog-eat-poltergeist world of academic research, and a sometimes affectionate, sometimes heebie-jeebie-giving tribute to the city of Seattle, all in one thrilling tale of wicked weirdness. You won't blame Harper Blaine for being leery of getting more involved in the Grey, when you see some of the places it leads her to, the trouble it gets her into, and the company it forces her to keep. For example, Carlos the vampire has been on her side in both adventures so far, but he's still scarier than this book's bad guy and his pet poltergeist. It's enough to make me want to keep reading, just to see this nice young lady safely through the darkness. Beyond doubt, there will be plenty of darkness. After all, the next book on deck is titled Underground.