on June 28, 2011
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Also in this series: Phantom Evil, The Hidden, Haunted Destiny, Deadly Fate, Darkest Journey, Dying Breath, Echoes of Evil, The Summoning, The Seekers, The Unholy, The Dead Heat of Summer, The Unforgiven, The Forbidden
Emerging from the bayou like an apparition, Donegal Plantation is known for its unsurpassed dining, captivating atmosphere, haunting legends and now a corpse swinging from the marble angel that marks its cemetery's most majestic vault. A corpse discovered in nearly the same situation as that of Marshall Donegal, the patriarch killed in a skirmish just before the Civil War.
Desperate for help traditional criminologists could never provide, plantation heiress Ashley Donegal turns to an elite team of paranormal investigators who blend hard forensics with rare & often inexplicable intuition. Among the Krewe of Hunters is an old flame, Jake Mallory, a gifted musician with talent stretching far beyond the realm of the physical, and a few dark ghosts of his own.
The evil the team unveils has the power to shake the plantation to its very core. Jake and Ashley are forced to risk everything to unravel secrets that will not stay buried even in death.
A Civil War-era plantation, reenactors, ghosts, a killer and a second-chance love story — what’s not to like? Well, as it turns out, several things.
The romance takes a bit of a back seat to the mystery, but I’ve come to expect that in this series, and I’m fine with it. Unfortunately, several inconsistencies, assumptions, and leaps of logic threw me out of the flow of the story at various points in the book. And frankly, the killer’s logic seemed thin even if you factor in his obvious mental illness.
One huge issue that troubled me was the whole “oh, we’re totally over racism and slavery and the South’s defeat now” attitude of most of the characters in the book. That’s just bull. I don’t deny that there are some people, white and black, who have made a concerted effort to move past that legacy; I hope I’m one of them. But you have only to look at current events and the blatant racism visible on social media and even in some mainstream media to know that as a country, we are very far from being over it… especially in the South. Racism as it exists today needs to be addressed and acknowledged, not swept under the rug of “it’s all in the past and we all know better now.” Some of us do indeed know better now, but that doesn’t make it go away in the culture as a whole—or in the day-to-day experiences of African Americans. To be completely fair, a few of the characters do acknowledge and even encourage education about slavery and racism. But none of the African-American characters is subjected to racism—not by the reenactors, not by the police, and not by the B&B guests. And both the characters who actually live on Donegal plantation seem perfectly comfortable playing “slave” roles in the reenactment. Neither of those scenarios rang true for me. I ended up feeling that Graham had tried to dodge the deeper ugliness of racism in order to keep things light… but if you’re setting a book on a Louisiana plantation that does Civil War reenactments, you really have to take on those issues without the rose-colored glasses.
The last point that bothered me is that suddenly, in this book, it seems that everyone in the Krewe a) can see or sense or speak to ghosts — including Jake, although that wasn’t his talent in the last book (he was a finder) and b) is a full-fledged, fully-trained FBI agent already. It’s been barely any time since the end of their previous case, and only two of the Krewe — Angela and Jackson — had any law-enforcement background at that point. Jake certainly didn’t. Yet here he is, speaking and acting like with the authority, knowledge, and confidence of a trained agent. I’m sure they’re all getting training, but it takes a lot of time and a significant amount of training, both mental and physical, to become an FBI agent. At this point in the series chronology, most of the Krewe simply haven’t had that time. I realize that Adam’s unit is unusual, but I can’t imagine the FBI would waive its requirements more-or-less en masse.
So what did I like? The mystery and suspense kept me turning the pages — I read the book in a single sitting, and despite the significant reservations I mentioned above, there were parts of it I really enjoyed. (However, the alligator scene was a bit too gruesome for me.*) And I enjoyed Jake and Ashley’s second-chance romance as well, although I couldn’t quite buy the explanation of why she had pushed him away in the past. But their present was more satisfying and believable.
I still plan to read as many of the Krewe of Hunters series as I can get my hands on — they’re usually entertaining, and the others I’ve read have had fewer problems. But I don’t think this one is going in the re-read pile.
*That’s not a spoiler. This is the bayou, after all. Alligators come with the territory.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- The Backlist Reader (TBR) Challenge 2016