Tuesday, October 21, 2008

"Underground: A Greywalker Novel" by Kat Richardson

Harper Blaine was a fairly normal private eye, until she died for two minutes. In that time, some Grey was placed in her by a guy named Wygan - her life hasn't been the same since. She is now what is known as a Greywalker, someone who can not only see dead people, but slip through the planes of time and often interact with the ghosts. It's a strange life that Harper lives, and it's about to get even weirder...

Harper's "security man", Quinton, comes to her for help with a case involving the homeless of Seattle. Seems there a beastie afoot that might be eating the displaced; there have been bodies found that appear to be chewed on and missing limbs. Quinton has a feeling that Harper will be able to help due to her special abilities, and he's right. The beastie in question might be connected to the Native Americans of the area and it's up to our duo to figure out how to return him to his rightful holding pen.

There's not a lot of new ground covered in this entry by Richardson, which sort of surprised me. In the previous books, Harper's been learning her way around the Grey and attempting to "train" herself in how to use it without mishap. Her professor friends Ben and Mara were prevalent in the previous works - not so much this time. Richardson does go into a lot of historical background regarding Seattle, and that was quite interesting. I knew a little bit about the "underground" having watched some History Channel stuff, but her book gave me a whole new appreciation for the phenomenon. In case you're completely unaware, parts of Seattle are literally like split-level homes; there are complete sidewalks and alleys under the existing structures. It all happened when the powers that be decided to raise the street level due to the incoming tides; newspapers would publish tide charts so one could know when it was safe to flush their toilets (the tide would bring the refuse right back through the pipes, a very good reason in my book to raise everything up!) Anyway, a lot of the homeless use the underground for refuge, both in Harper's book and in real life. Including our buddy, Quinton, who has literally gone underground for reasons that are finally revealed.

Harper's boyfriend, Will, also makes a brief appearance, and I have to say that I was very happy about the direction Richardson takes with that relationship. Quinton plays a big part in this book, too, and again, I'm happy about that - I think he's an interesting character, especially after reading this entry. (think mysterious government agent who escapes their evil clutches... kind of). I was very impressed by Richardson's character development of the homeless community; guys like Tanker, Lass, Zip, Twitcher, etc. Also, there's a promising female character, Sandy, who might really be what she says she is, even though Harper thinks she's one of the homeless. I'm going to keep my eye out for her in future books.

If you haven't tried a Greywalker book yet, you're missing out. Richardson has done a great job of creating a world that's very close to ours without throwing in too many of the usual supernatural suspects. She's also created a very realistic heroine, one who doesn't always figure things out right away, and one who has some very real physical trauma done to her. For example, in this book Harper complains a lot about her knee and shoulder, which were injured in the previous work. It's a nice touch to have her still recovering from those wounds since the books take place just months from each other, and it gives a very human quality to Harper. I've enjoyed the first three books very much, and I can't wait for Richardson to put out a fourth.

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