A Ghost Among Us, by Debora ElizaBeth Hill

a-ghost-among-us-by-debora-elizabeth-hill coverGenre: Modern/Urban Fantasy
Publisher: Fire Mountain Press
Published: 2003
Reviewer Rating: No Stars!
Book Review by Paul Goat Allen

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From the moment I picked up A Ghost Among Us, I was overcome with a sick sense of literary foreboding. It was almost as if a ghost was whispering to me, “beware a very bad book….” I try not to judge a book by its cover but in some cases it’s just inescapable. The author’s name on the front cover is listed as Debora Hill. The spine of the book states that the author is Debora Eliza Beth Hill. On the back cover, Debora ElizaBeth Hill is the author. Three different versions of the same name. I thought to myself, “Either the author is schizophrenic or someone doesn’t care very much about the quality of this book.” I took a deep breath and began to read…

…and was almost instantly offended. In the first few chapters, the author calls Arab men ‘assholes’ (“…and twice she took a swing at one of the swaggering, splashily-dressed young [Arab] bucks who paraded Queensway…What self-respecting Moslem male would admit to having his nose broken by a woman? But Charlotte knew it was just a matter of time before she wound up dead or killed by one of the assholes.”) and describes the United States as filled with bigots and women-haters (“America was beginning to scare her — she wanted to become an expatriate, and watch it thrashing about like a whale on the sands from as long a distance as possible. It hurt her to realize that the freaks and the fanatics were taking over… She would hurt for those left behind — those at the mercy of the women-hating, power-hungry bigots who longed to have women under their power again…”).

The plot — a totally weak and unoriginal story line about three women moving into an English house inhabited by a ghost — becomes secondary at this point as the unbelievable slurs pile up — towel heads, fags, etc. No ethnicity, religious or economic group is safe from the author’s snide remarks — British mechanics, civil servants, fundamentalists and scientists all suffer the author’s wrath. On several occasions, I wanted to just throw the book down in revulsion and walk away but I continued on in hopes of finding some redeeming quality.

The main characters — three professional women — are all two-dimensional and the story line sadly uninspired until the women meet the ghost of the manor, Sir Jerome Kennington. Once Kennington’s story begins to unfold — a kind of murder mystery/love story — the pacing and overall quality of writing starts to pick up. But just as that plot line begins picking up steam, the story totally goes off the rails with a subplot about saving animals from a London university laboratory. And the slurs return in full force. The university researchers are described as “maniacs torturing small animals” and “greedy, insensitive fascists.”

With the help of the three women, the poor little kittens and puppies are freed from the laboratory and Kennington does eventually figure out who killed him but at that point all I cared about was getting to the end of the book. I love reading and collecting books and have never thrown a book away — until A Ghost Among Us. The totally needless slurs were just too much to take and absolutely ruined the story before it even had a chance. The key to any novel is to captivate the reader on an emotional level with characters that they can empathize with but it’s hard to accomplish that when the reader is struggling with terms like towel heads, women-haters and fascists throughout the entire book.

Paul Goat Allen is the editor of Barnes & Noble’s Explorations science fiction/fantasy book review and is the author of Burning Sticks, Old Winding Way and Warlock Dreams.

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