A Barricade in Hell by Jaime Lee Moyer
(Description nicked from B&N.com.)
“In Jaime Lee Moyer’s Barricade in Hell, Delia Martin has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with the ability to peer across to the other side. Since childhood, her constant companions have been ghosts. She used her powers and the help of those ghosts to defeat a twisted serial killer terrorizing her beloved San Francisco. Now it’s 1917—the threshold of a modern age—and Delia lives a peaceful life with Police Captain Gabe Ryan.
That peace shatters when a strange young girl starts haunting their lives and threatens Gabe. Delia tries to discover what this ghost wants as she becomes entangled in the mystery surrounding a charismatic evangelist who preaches pacifism and an end to war. But as young people begin to disappear, and audiences display a loyalty and fervor not attributable to simple persuasion, that message of peace reveals a hidden dark side.
As Delia discovers the truth, she faces a choice—take a terrible risk to save her city, or chance losing everything?”
This book is a more than worthy follow-up to its predecessor, Delia’s Shadow. For one thing, with the characters and their relationships already established, the author is free to play around with them more and explore their personalities. For another, while there are some murders in this book, they remain mostly on the “creepy” side of things and avoid the bloodshed of the first novel (which wasn’t that bad anyway). That sinister atmosphere fits early San Francisco quite well, with its foggy streets lit by gaslamps and the recent memories of the Great Earthquake.
What I really enjoyed in this book was how it moved beyond mere ghosts and began to delve into spiritualism. With a good chunk of the book taking place in Chinatown, Moyer took the opportunity to explore some of the Chinese beliefs about life after death and their particular brand of mystical power. It ties in nicely with the “rules” for ghosts that have been established for people like Delia, who can see spirits almost constantly. I have to wonder if future books will go further in this direction and bring in the full force of the Spiritualist movement.
I must admit, though, that my favorite part of the book was the little cat gifted to Delia by one of the Chinese Tong leaders. Meant as a guardian, the kitten (like most cats) has a huge personality all her own and often gently steals the scene with her antics. Of course, I freely admit to being a cat person, so I’m biased.
The murder mystery took some lively twists and turns throughout the book, and the ending and subsequent explanation for the crimes was a complete surprise. I’m not sure how much I bought into it, but it’s certainly unique, and I won’t argue with the entertainment value. Pay close attention to the kinds of ghosts hanging around in this novel—they’re not just there to tug your heartstrings about the many young men lost in the trenches of World War One.
I’m not usually one for ghost stories, but I fell in love with Delia and her supernatural version of San Francisco from word one. A Barricade in Hell is a great historical mystery with a liberal helping of creepiness and wandering souls. I highly recommend it, especially as a bridge between genres.