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Jaime Lee Moyer MegaPost

April 13, 2015

I was re-listening to some old episodes of the SF Squeecast. I do this from time to time because they make me happy. And I got back around to Episode 31: Leave Me Hanging Like the True Friends You Are. (The episode titles are all pretty awesome.) And Lynne Thomas recommended Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer. I had picked this book up ages ago from LP because it very much “looked like my kind of thing,” but, as so often happens with me, it got stuck on a shelf and I never quite got around to it. So, I was very excited to be reminded about the book when I re-listened to the episode. And book 2, A Barricade in Hell, had come out in the meantime, so I got to read them right in a row. So, now that I’ve gushed, let me tell you about these books and what makes me so fond of them.

delia's shadow

The elevator pitch for Delia’s Shadow is “Devil in the White City in San Francisco, with ghosts.
Delia Martin is a young woman who has grown up in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Like so many other people, Delia lost family in the disaster, but it cost her more than most because Delia can see the ghosts of all those killed in the earthquake and the following fire. If she touches a ghost, she can experience its last moments. Imagine being burned again, and again, or crushed by falling masonry, or trampled by a panicked mob every time you stepped outside your house.
For years, Delia has lived in New York, trying to get away from the horrors that San Francisco holds. But now, her best friend, Sadie, is getting married and Delia must return to the city of her birth. But she doesn’t come alone. The ghost she calls Shadow rides with her.
This ghost is different. She doesn’t just drift or repeat the moments before her death. She watches Delia with intent eyes. She wants something that she thinks Delia can give her.
The San Francisco she returns to is different. Vast stretches of the city have been rebuilt and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition is being held to show off the city’s recovery. But there is a darkness hidden beneath the glitter of the Tower of Jewels. A serial killer is stalking the streets and has threatened to claim a victim on the very grounds of the Exposition.
Delia’s family is already connected to the grisly murders. Sadie’s fiance, Jack, is one of the investigating officers. He and his partner, Gabe, are desperate to find the killer before he can come fully into the limelight and claim even more victims. Gabe is even more driven because the murders are eerily similar to a series of cases his father investigated thirty years before. It doesn’t take very long before the two halves of the story start to pull together. Shadow is somehow connected to the killer, and she has chosen Delia to finish her business with him.

I do not recommend reading this book before bed! The mystery is gripping and there are enough dark moments that you may lose sleep trying to get to the next “safe” spot in the story.
The book is told in alternating chapters between Delia and Gabe so that you always feel very much in the loop as far as the investigation goes. The side characters, Jack and Sadie, Sadie’s family, and Dora, the medium brought in to help Deila, are all distinct and vibrant. Everyone clearly has a past and a future. They’re all people, not just cutouts propped around the central figures.

There is also a slow romance between Gabe and Delia. It’s the considered courtship of two people who had not expected to ever find someone. Delia is older and much plainer than her vivacious friend, while Gabe is a widower. They do not rush into romance and no bodices are ripped or even seriously threatened. And that’s nice. It’s not that I don’t love a steamy romance. And I read plenty of books with crazy passion and flying undergarments. But, that wouldn’t feel appropriate to this story. barricade

A Barricade in Hell is the second book in the series. Two years have gone by since the events of Delia’s ShadowSPOILER::
Gabe and Delia are now married and settled in their own house. World War I has been grinding through the men of Europe and San Francisco is thick with the ghosts of American volunteers and the US is teetering on the brink of declaring war. And another unusually determined ghost has attached herself to Delia.
She can get through anything Delia or Dora can throw up to deter her and she seems eerily focused on Gabe for some reason. She interacts with Delia only as a way to get closer to Gabe.
Gabe, meanwhile, is working on the brutal murder of a man in a chemist’s shop. The victim was laid out, as though on an altar, covered with a cloth, and then his throat was slit. When Gabe starts looking for similar incidents he begins to turn up a troubling pattern of death and disappearance that leads him in the direction of a charismatic touring evangelist preaching pacifism and calling for America to stay out of the European war.

This time, Dora has a much bigger role, both in helping Delia cope with the purely supernatural elements, as well as assisting Gabe with his investigation. The side characters continue to be strongly written and evolve and grow alongside Delia and Gabe.
The atmosphere this time is more melancholy than in Delia’s Shadow although the threat is just as dangerous.

sky

The third book, Against a Brightening Skycomes out from Tor in October and it’s brilliant! I was very lucky to get an advance copy. I’ll review it a little closer to release.
I will say that it is set in 1919 and deals with the fallout of the Russian Revolution. It’s brilliant and lovely and could almost have been written with me in mind.

If you have an interest in supernatural stories, especially those set in a rich historical period, you cannot go wrong by picking up Jamie’s books. I hope you will enjoy reading about Delia and her family as much as I did.

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