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Ghost Detective: A Myron Vale Investigation Paperback – June 20, 2013
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"A sultry blonde walks into a detective's office. Big deal, seen it a million times, right? Wrong! THE GHOST DETECTIVE ranks as one of the most ingenious departures from the norm I've seen in a long time ... I've always enjoyed Scott William Carter's work, but THE GHOST DETECTIVE takes my admiration to a whole new level. I loved this book. " - David H. Hendrickson, author of Cracking the Ice
"Scott is one of those rare writers who can and does cross genres, and do it well. You never know what kind of story you'll get from him, but you do know that it'll be good." - Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Hugo award-winning author of The Disappeared
"Fans of police procedurals with a paranormal twist will enjoy this book. The style and tone of the book reminded me a bit of the original Night Stalker series, but not as graphic or violent." - Jana DeLeon, New York Times Bestselling author of Trouble in Mudbug
From the Author
Readers who enjoyed this book may also want to check out the short story prequel to Ghost Detective, "The Haunted Breadbox," available only as an ebook. It includes an author's afterword explaining the origin of the story, which also lead to the novel. ~SWC
- The Haunted Breadbox (short story prequel)
- Ghost Detective
- The Ghost Who Said Goodbye
- The Ghost, the Girl, and the Gold
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Myron Vale was a police officer who could not see ghosts until the day he was ambushed in a shoot-out at a Starbucks in Portland, Oregon. The perp got off one shot, which struck Myon square in the forehead and miraculously traveled between his brain hemispheres without cutting the corpus callosum. When Myron woke from his coma, he discovered that he could see ghosts and that his wife, Billie, was dead.
Myon's "Ghost-perception" is no gift. He becomes something of a go-to guy for ghosts who want to handle issues that were hanging when they were alive, but he can't tell ghosts from the living and is constantly making faux pas of confusion. This is a "McGuffin" that runs throughout the story, and provides a lot of the plot tension. Of course, the real "McGuffin" is a case for a knock-out ghost who is looking for her husband and wants Myron to look into the circumstances of her death. Layered over this is the simmering conflict between Myon and Billie and the question of whether they can make a living-dead marriage work.
The mystery element works nicely. Myron works the case and follows the leads and finds the answers, and a bit more, quite satisfyingly.
The ghost element, unfortunately, was weak as the ghosts mostly were there for comic relief and/or to help Myron out when the plot promised to stall. The world of ghosts was uneven. Some ghosts are still wearing clothes from pioneer days, while others change their clothes. Some ghosts are still arguing about whether Truman should drop the bomb, while some - Meriwether Lewis - is debating the invasion of Iraq and is interested in hybrid cars. Some ghosts are afraid of humans, and some threaten them. Ghosts apparently can touch each other, but don't seem to need much else. What do they do stay busy? There seems to be a shadowy ghost government and a ghost non-governmental organization, the NAANCP (National Association for the Advancement of Non-corporeal People), but why? The story doesn't flesh any of this out.
Likewise, why is ghost Elvis in Portland making ghost hotdogs? Who knows? The story just seemed to think it would be cute to put Elvis in the story. (Dean Koontz, of course, does the same thing in several of his Odd Thomas novels, but there it makes a kind of sense.)
Also, being a "ghost detective" would seem to be a definite plus since you could ask a helpful ghost to tail a suspect and he could not be spotted and he could walk through walls. Of course, nothing like that happens as Myron tails people the old-fashioned way.
The Billy element was very disappointing. Billy is sulky and she and Myron bait each other and say mean things and sulk and pout and it isn't very fun. Ultimately, it seems, this thread just disappears by the end of the story.
On the whole the story didn't work for me because of the non-detective elements.
The story also didn't work for me because I didn't particularly like the character. I didn't find him to be particularly sympathetic as it seemed to be that his one emotional mode was "surly."
Undoubtedly, because I was having difficulty being absorbed into the story several moments of politically correct piety reached out of the book to hit me on my nose. Here's one:
//"Whoever saves a life," the priest said, raising his index finger to emphasize his point, "it is considered as if he saved an entire world."
"Uh-huh. Isn't that from the Talmud?" He smiled.
"Caught that, did you? Catholics have no monopoly on wisdom, as you well know."
"I wasn't sure Catholics had any wisdom."
The priest placed his hand over his heart. "Ouch. But a criticism that is somewhat justifiable, I'm afraid. I'll concede as much. But I don't have much time, so I best get back to the point. Drop this case, Myron. Let it go."//
Carter, Scott William (2013-06-19). Ghost Detective (A Myron Vale Investigation) (Kindle Locations 2067-2071). Flying Raven Press. Kindle Edition.
Isn't "I wasn't sure Catholics had any wisdom" just a little bit "catty" coming from the protagonist of the story? I guess authors writing about Portland-living, Prius-driving detectives don't have to worry about whether the casual anti-Catholic insult might insult Catholic readers. As a Catholic, I thought to myself, "well, there's a guy I want to have a beer with....not."
Then, there is this gem, where Myron enlists the help of a ghost Indian tribe:
//"I'm good to my word. If you ever need my help, I'll be there for you. You can ask any--"
He held up a hand. "We know your word is good-- as good as any white man's can be. You have simply never offered it to us before."//
Carter, Scott William (2013-06-19). Ghost Detective (A Myron Vale Investigation) (Kindle Locations 3643-3645). Flying Raven Press. Kindle Edition.
What else can a Portland-living, Prius-driving detective expect but a little sermon on the "forked tongue" of the "white man."
These were two minor points, but obviously the book didn't make the sale that would have kept me from groaning when I read these politically correct bits of flotsam.
Obviously, your mileage will vary. The writing was professionally done. If the author can present a more substantive and coherent back-story for his ghosts, there might be something in this series.
What makes GHOST DETECTIVE such a fascinating read is the world Carter has created, a world in which the dead far outnumber the living. When Myron Vale walks down the street, he can never be sure whether those he sees are living beings or ghosts. For example, it's only when he realizes that no one else can see the old guy trying to hand out bibles outside an office building that he understands the man is actually dead. Vale sees these ghosts everywhere, and he sees them all the time. As in Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense," they come to him for help, they seem to gravitate to him because he alone among the living knows they're there. But it can be exhausting. Some of the ghosts he encounters don't know they're dead. And more than a few times Vale has appeared insane when he finds himself in conversation with someone the rest of the living world can't even see.
This is a world that seems to have rules and bureaucracy of its own, although Carter only drops hints of these in this first Myron Vale novel. There's an organization called the "Department of Souls," which keeps track of the so-called "dead census," and the "Immortal Living Adjustment Bureau" works to help the dead acclimate with their new "non-corporeal" condition. As Carter explains it, ghosts are somehow able to create whatever they want, including clothing, jewelry, food, and drink. The dead fat guy with the hot dog cart, who calls himself Elvis, may or may not be the real thing - his hot dogs smell fabulous to Vale, but he can't touch or taste them. And Karen, the gorgeous blond with the bodacious chest, is nothing but thin air when he reaches out to touch her.
While GHOST DETECTIVE is definitely a noir-style mystery novel (with all of the expected sarcasm and witty repartee), and the case of the missing Tony Neuman is at the heart of the plot, it's also a romance (Vale's relationship with his wife is bittersweet and deeply affecting). Billie is a fascinating character, and she becomes even more fascinating as we learn more about her. She plays a central role in the novel's final act, which is both satisfying and unexpected.
Beyond that, GHOST DETECTIVE is mind-bogglingly fascinating on a philosophical level. What if the dead really do move among us, sitting in the backseats of our cars, watching us as we work, walking beside us, visiting us in our homes? How would it affect our belief in God, or in Heaven and Hell? Vale is a self-proclaimed atheist, but he does believe in ghosts - he has no choice but to believe. One of the ghosts, the would-be bible peddler, tells Vale that he still believes in God, even though death has brought him no closer to any real proof. "Have you ever met him?" Vale asks, and the dead man admits that "nobody has." Vale asks him, "Why do you believe in [God] if you've never met him?" The man responds, "Well, I hadn't met him when I was alive either. I believed then. It just took a little faith. Why should I stop now?"
It's fair to say that GHOST DETECTIVE is a novel about faith - faith in possibilities, faith in surviving, faith in forgiveness. It wouldn't be easy to live in a world that so openly reveals what happens to us after death, as well as how few answers we are likely to find in that afterlife. I understand how hard it is for Myron Vale to keep himself sane. That he is able to help the dead resolve the mysteries in their lives has given him a purpose that his own near-death experience almost took from him. I found GHOST DETECTIVE to be a gripping, wonderful read - and I definitely look forward to the next Myron Vale novel. Highly recommended.
[Please note: I was provided a copy of this novel for review; the opinions expressed here are my own.]
I've also sampled and purchased (free) first novel of different series by this author about Garrison Gage, a damaged private investigator. Looking forward to the read.
This author has had the wisdom to hire a real publisher so that means the book has been edited. Joy joy, I love editors.
You will be missing out on really good new author if you pass him by.
Most recent customer reviews
Will be reading other books by this author. I enjoyed it.