Sunday, September 29, 2013

Delia's Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Obtained from: Netgalley
Read: September 16, 2013

A dark, romantic fantasy set against the backdrop of San Francisco devastated by the Great Quake. It is the dawn of a new century in San Francisco and Delia Martin is a wealthy young woman whose life appears ideal. But a dark secret colors her life, for Delia’s most loyal companions are ghosts, as she has been gifted (or some would say cursed) with an ability to peer across to the other side. Since the great quake rocked her city in 1906, Delia has been haunted by an avalanche of the dead clamoring for her help. Delia flees to the other side of the continent, hoping to gain some peace. After several years in New York, Delia believes she is free…until one determined specter appears and she realizes that she must return to the City by the Bay in order to put this tortured soul to rest. It will not be easy, as the ghost is only one of the many victims of a serial killer who was never caught. A killer who after thirty years is killing again. And who is now aware of Delia’s existence.

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I picked up Jaime Lee Moyer's Delia's Shadow thinking it might make a nice transitional piece. I'd been reading a lot of historic nonfiction and thought a ghost story would be just what I needed to ease back into the world of fiction. Suffice it to say, I wasn't expecting a lot from this book and was caught entirely off guard when it swept me clean off my feet.

Moyer's San Francisco is populated with a multitude of ghosts and while that may not seem particularly imaginative, I think readers will be surprised by Moyer's spirited portrayal of the deceased. Not as well-rounded as the living cast, Delia's phantom following truly feels as if they are hanging somewhere between life and death. I don't know if this treatment was an intentional decision or not, but I feel it went a long way in establishing a hauntingly ethereal aura around the specters that dog Delia's steps.

More often than not I was able to guess where the story was going, but even so, Moyer's presentation often caught me off guard. You'll have to read the book to understand what I am getting at here, but Moyer's ability to manipulate the reader's emotions with language and prose more than makes up for the predictability of the narrative. 

In terms of romance, Delia Martin and Gabe Ryan have the kind of chemistry I really appreciate. Much like Amanda Quick's Tobias March and Levinia Lake, Moyer's leads aren't looking for love. It is inevitable that the pair end up together, but I like that their relationship is an extension of their partnership rather than unfulfilled longing. 

Is the book perfect? I don't think so. I would have loved a solid explanation regarding the serial killer's background, the details of what made that individual tick, but all in all I can't say I overly disappointed by the oversight. Delia's Shadow is a wonderfully written paranormal mystery set against the dazzling lights of the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Not to be missed. 

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After the earthquake and subsequent fire nine years ago, I began to see them everywhere. Some ghosts were translucent with no more substance than the fog, barely in the world of the living. I'd no way of knowing for certain, but I thought them the oldest or with the fewest ties to loved ones. Others were so close to solid looking I might have thought them made of warm flesh is not for the old style of their clothes and ability to walk through objects. 
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