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Friday, March 25, 2011

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham

Phantom Evil by Heather Graham
Publisher: Mira
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (361 pgs)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 5 Books
Reviewed by Poppy

A secret government unit is formed under the oversight of Adam Harrison, famed paranormal investigator. The six members he’s gathered know a little of the otherworldly – each has honed a psychic talent of their own.

Jackson Crowe, part English, part Cheyenne, heads the group. Haunted by his experience with an ancestral ghost who saved his life as a child, and the recent murders of two previous teammates, Jackson can’t tell if Adam’s demoted him or given him an extraordinary opportunity. Despite his link to the realm of spirits, he’s well aware that the living commit the most heinous crimes, with spiritualist charlatans existing merely to fool and seduce the unwary.

To counterbalance Jackson’s careful skepticism, Adam Harrison has paired him with Angela Hawkins, a young woman who learned the painful lesson of loss at an early age. A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition in Virginia, she already has her hands full. But Adam’s call to New Orleans is strong.

The case: In a historic mansion in New Orleans’s French Quarter, a senator’s wife falls to her death from a balcony. Most think she jumped, distraught over the loss of her young son. Some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits that inhabit the house – once the site of a serial killer’s grisly work.

Whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion, greed and desire will cast the pair into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.

It’s been a long, long time since I’ve read a book that I didn’t want to put down, and then thought about when I couldn’t read it. “Phantom Evil” is that kind of book. It called to me, tempting me to stop doing those things I must and instead sit and read. I read late into the night and resented the fatigue that finally caused me to set the book aside. I was simply intrigued by this book, both by the premise and by the characters.

Ms. Graham first and foremost did a great job with her group of six investigators, all of whom were both distinct individuals and truly interesting people. Though they all had the commonality of a belief in the paranormal due to brushes with such throughout their lives, they were not all deeply into “woo-woo”. In fact, their belief in the truth of ghosts and such made them more skeptical of claims of haunting. Fascinating.

The circumstances surrounding Regina Holloway’s death – did a ghost push her or did she jump? – were only one of several mysteries this book tackles. We have a dark evil, ghosts of children, a cult, and so much more. All these threads are deeply interwoven and, when our investigators tug at one, sometimes others came unraveled.

I absolutely loved trying to puzzle together the clues as they were uncovered. Which were real clues? Which mattered to the case and which were red herrings? I was so pleased that we were only given the points-of-view of our investigators and weren’t allowed to see into the minds of others. I dislike reading mysteries when we’re allowed to either know whodunit or see into the mind of the antagonist.

The connection between the six investigators was instant and believable and I truly hope Ms. Graham has future books planned for all of them. In this book, the main protagonists are Jackson, the team leader, and Angela, the investigator who seems to trigger all the paranormal events that occur. They’re the first two to meet, and it’s evident there is an attraction between them, one that I hoped they’d act upon.

This book never quite crossed the line into “horror”, but had its moments of evil and terror. Still, the focus remained on the investigation, and it’s primarily a mystery with romantic elements. Well written, well plotted, evenly and quickly paced, “Phantom Evil” hit all my happy buttons and left every part of me well satisfied: the mystery lover and the romantic.

I do admit that the ending felt a smidge rushed, but it didn’t dispel my feelings of good-will toward this book, and certainly won’t keep it off my keeper shelf.

If you’re looking for a strong mystery that’ll keep you guessing to the end, if you like your romantic suspense with a touch of “woo woo” and a satisfying ending I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Phantom Evil.