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Ghosts in Quicksilver by Elliott Dunstan (EDunstan)

 

Jamal Kaye: sort-of private eye, not-quite-adult and medium whenever she decides to stop giving her dead sister the cold shoulder, has gotten in over her head. Her first case is a missing-persons case she already knows is a murder mystery, she’s got a roommate who can’t keep his mouth shut, and worst of all: she’s finding out that not only is she not the only freak in Ottawa, she’s far from the biggest, the baddest or the worst.

Note: Ghosts in Quicksilver contains some graphic violence and harsh language.


A serialized novel, updating sporadically

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Listed: Aug 12, 2018

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Reads like quicksilver

By 20150506, author of Paladin

Sep 4, 2018: Ghosts in Quicksilver, by Elliott Dunstan, is about ghosts in Ottawa. It’s also about Jamal, a seventeen-year-old private detective haunted by her dead sister; their first case, which happens to be a murder; and the trials of moving into a new place and fitting in with the supernatural community, which they just learned exists. There’s a lot going on in this story.

Fortunately the writer is good at juggling the different threads and keeping the story running smoothly. Ghosts in Quicksilver reads like quicksilver and that’s a fair achievement. It’s hard enough getting the information down on paper. Getting it to pass easily from the page to the reader’s mind takes skill and sensitivity. When a story flows well, it is easy to imagine and provides a fuller experience. When a story doesn’t flow well, the effect is like someone stepping on your feet at the movies. It breaks suspension of disbelief and reminds you that you’re just a spectator.

Dunstan’s work pulls you in, and not just because of the workmanlike prose. It also joins the growing "supernatural detective" subgenre that includes personal favorites like Hellblazer, The Dresden Files, and Rivers of London. As with most works of urban fantasy Jamal’s the world is recognizably our own, but with added fantasy elements. There are seven types of magic user: Some, like our hero, can see ghosts. Others can read minds or change their shape. The whole thing feels plausible and balanced.

I do have some minor gripes. For example, Dunstan likes to describe characters a little bit at a time, allowing the reader to gradually build up a picture of what they look like. This works most of the time but not when it comes to Jamal, who has something of an unconventional appearance. We learn in Chapter 2 that she’s seventeen, red-haired, and a girl, or at least presents as a girl. We gathered she was dark-skinned but we don’t get confirmation until a few chapters later. Granted, the first-person-perspective isn’t the best at describing the main character but I feel like some of these details should’ve been mentioned at the start, back when I was picking voices. My version of Jamal sounds like Humphrey Bogart and there’s nothing I can do about it.

Otherwise I recommend Ghosts in Quicksilver to anyone who likes snarky ghosts, solid worldbuilding, magic users learning to use their powers, young heroes being way over their head, supernatural communities hidden by a masquerade, and Canadian in-jokes. At least, I’m pretty sure the jokes are in there.

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