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Kindred Spirit, by John Passarella
Genre: Horror
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Published: 2006
Review Posted: 11/27/2007
Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: 9 out of 10

Kindred Spirit, by John Passarella

Book Review by C. Dennis Moore

Have you read this book?

My first exposure to writer John Passarella came a few years ago when a publisher I was working with contacted Passarella to write the introduction to an anthology, "The Book of Monsters," which I was editing at the time. I'd seen his "Wither" novels on book shelves, but hadn't, as yet, read them. He wrote the introduction, I thanked him, the anthology came out, then the publisher seemed to vanish off the face of the earth and, with it, the anthology. Then a couple of years later, I was sent a copy of Passarella's latest novel to review: Kindred Spirit.

All that time, Passarella's work had been one of those things I'd been meaning to get to, one of those things you tell yourself, "I really need to read that soon", but every time you're at the book store or library, it slips your mind. And anyway, the ones I wanted to read, the "Wither" books, were a series and I could never find the first part (they are "Wither", "Wither's Rain", and "Wither's Legacy"). So I wasn't sure what to expect from Kindred Spirit. As far as I could tell from the synopsis, it was just a story you can see on any given weekend on the Lifetime network. Twins, one is murdered, the other begins to experience a psychic bond with the dead sibling which leads to uncovering the murderer.

The plot itself, as I understood it, didn't leave me breathless with anticipation. But that goes to show how little a back cover synopsis really tells you about a novel.

Television reporter Hallie Moore is at the height of her success, she's got a good life, lives on her terms with friends, fun, and freedom. But on the one-year anniversary of her twin sister Heather's murder, Hallie stops at the roadside memorial and experiences a brief flash where she thinks she's just relived the night of the killing through her sister's eyes. Gradually, Heather begins to surface more fully in Hallie's mind until the sisters are living side by side in one body. However, they're not alone. There's a third presence there as well, due to another psychic connection Heather made when the girls were ten. And it's this third connection that may be responsible for Heather's murder, and for the killer thinking his past has come back to haunt him in the form of Hallie.

Meanwhile, Heather's husband Tom and son Shane are doing their best to deal with the events of the past year themselves, and things become even more confusing for them when they realize Heather has returned and is sharing space with her twin.

Kindred Spirit was something I don't see often enough, a compelling read. Like I said, the synopsis didn't set me on fire, but once I got into it, Passarella's writing, his prose as well as his characterization of Hallie and the way his plot unfolds, kept me going long after I'd told myself, "Just a few more pages, then I'll stop for the night." The amount of research he put into Hallie's character and her job were fascinating and the effort showed. In fact, the amount of work he did on all aspects of this world, not just Hallie, but Tom, the killer, the paranormal aspect . . . his attention to detail pays off in bringing this word to life for the reader, and that's something else I don't see enough. The fact Passarella cares enough about his story and his readers to give it his all is a refreshing change when I'm used to reading authors who not only don't bother researching their characters, but don't even try to pretend like they did. It's the difference between a Writer and a writer. Even the requisite "ghost hunter" and "hypnosis" scenes, instead of reading like filler and exposition, rang true, thanks to Passarella's skill.

There were negatives, of course. While I was engrossed in the plot and thoroughly enjoyed the characters, I was disappointed in the end. It seemed rushed to me, and as strong as everything before it had been, I felt the ending simplified everything a little too much by leaving everything up to the "ghost", when up to that point, Hallie had been the real force behind the progression of the plot. She decides early on to use her skills as a reporter to uncover Heather's murder, and Passarella does a great job throughout in showing just how Hallie goes about this task, but then at the 11th hour, Heather and the third presence step in and "save the day". I thought it cheapened what came before and reminded me too much of all the crappy ghost movies Hollywood churns out, with sub-par CGI and no original thought as to what makes a good climax.

And even though Pasarrella made those requisite ghost hunter and hypnosis scenes interesting and real for me, I was a bit disappointed that they were necessary at all. Scenes like that, for me, always read like the author is looking for an easy way to keep things exciting. But he was doing such a good job without those scenes, I didn't feel he needed them at all in order to get his information across, that this world was so grounded in reality that bringing in the paranormal researchers and hypnotizing Hallie later on just reminded me I was reading a book and none of it was real. Then again, I was reading a book about a ghost inhabiting her sister's body, so any illusion this was "real" was due entirely to Passarella's skill and if he wants to include the token scenes, he's definitely got the talent to pull it off and not make it read like crap.

Overall, I really enjoyed Kindred Spirit and the pros far outweigh the cons here. It's not the most original plot I've seen, but the writing is excellent, the degree of professionalism and passion Passarella has for his craft shines through, and I'd happily recommend this novel to anyone who asked.
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