The third in the Downside Ghosts series. The main character is Chess Putnam who works as a Debunker for the Church of the Real Truth. She’s also a drug addict.

The book starts a couple of weeks after the previous book. Chess takes part in Madame Lupita’s execution because she uncovered Lupita’s illegal operations in the previous book. This should have been a routine matter but things go horribly wrong. Too late, Chess realizes that a ghost inhabits Lupita and when she dies, the ghost is released. The hosted ghost rampages through the Church employees and manages to kill two of them before it is banished with the executioner’s spare psychopomp. However, that spirit escort turns out to be a wolf and not a dog which the Church employees use.

Then, Chess is offered a very lucrative new job. The down sides are that she’s going to have work under the watchful eye of Lauren Abrams, who is a member of the Black Squad who are the law enforcers for the Church, and she has to take a binding oath that she won’t talk about the case with anyone else outside the case. If she does, the oath markers will give her pain and draw blood.

Mangled human corpses have been found on the streets of Downside and the Church suspects that their fanatical enemies the Lameru have returned. This means that Chess and Lauren have to investigate sites in the Downside, and the drug dealer and pimp Bump becomes interested. He orders Chess to essentially spy for him and gives her protection, too: his enforcer Terrible. Terrible and Chess became friends and almost something more but Chess screwed that up and now Terrible doesn’t want anything to do with her. But when Bump orders, Terrible has to obey.

Chess is still in love with Terrible. She blames herself for the break-up and misses him a lot. Terrible does his best to minimize his contact with her and barely even talks to her.

Chess is used to working alone and she resents Lauren from the start. Lauren is the daughter of the Grand Elder of the Church, and she has a lot of power, money, and contacts. She has also no idea how she should behave in Downside or what the the local gangs can do to her. She turns out to be a bit trigger-happy, as well. Chess suspects that the weird psychopomp that the executioner had, has something to do with the Lameru but Lauren is only interested in investigating things that are directly involved with the case. Chess has to also do her own investigating with Terrible but she can’t tell that to Lauren. Also, Chess hasn’t yet broken up with her occasional lover Lex who supplies her with free drugs.

The third book in the series is just as fast-paced as the previous ones. The only thing that was jarring to me was how much different kinds of drugs Chess was taking and still being able to function. She took speed to pick her up when she was tired, another drug when she needed to sleep, and another to keep her emotions under control. Also, she was more paranoid that someone in the Church knew about her drug habit.

The book has a tight third person point-of-view. Just like the previous books, each chapter starts with a short quote from different sources such as the Book of Truth or Mrs. Increase’s “Advice for Ladies”. I really enjoyed these.

You can read the first three chapters for free at the author’s web site

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