Monday, December 8, 2008

Deadly Night by Heather Graham

Imagine being the recipient of a grand New Orleans mansion, pre-dating the Civil War. That's the scenario that opens Heather Graham's excellent ghost story, Deadly Night. Aiden Flynn and his brothers, Jeremy and Zack, inherit the house upon the death of an aunt whom they never knew existed.
It's been neglected and in dire need of fixing up. Oh, yes. It's also haunted. A Confederate soldier, his beautiful wife and his Union cousin still walk the grounds, giving the locals a juicy legend of family betrayal and murder.
Kendall Montgomery, a tarot card reader, lived in the mansion with the again Amelia Flynn until the old woman's death. Slightly disappointed about not getting the estate, she gladly returns to her apartment in the French Quarter, leaving the Flynn brothers to their inheritance.
Meanwhile, Aiden has found human remains on the property and begins investigating in the face of ho-hum reactions from the New Orleans police department, still reeling from Hurricane Katrina. Flynn, with the help of his brothers, finds a string of mysterious disappearances of young women, dating back ten years. His investigation keeps leading him to Kendall and the jazz bar where her friends play in a band.
Kendall has been experiencing her own strange encounters with the paranormal. She never had any illusions that she could foretell someone's future by reading tarot cards but, when the death card comes alive and mocks her, she begins having dreams that she is being stalked.
Although they don't like each other at first, Aiden and Kendall are drawn together as the mystery of the plantation and the disappearance of the young women deepens.
Graham keeps the excitement building as Kendall receives more warnings with frightening and increasing frequency that she is in serious danger. When she moves back into the mansion with Aiden, she is visited by the ghosts of the Flynn ancestors, but are they malevolent or are they warning her of danger?
Graham's depiction of New Orleans as a dark, gritty and dangerous place does not sugar-coat anything but does the great city justice by painting her as a place of wonder, mystery and magic.
There is a bit of cliché in that Aiden Flynn suspects serious crimes where the local authorities see none. Their excuse is Hurricane Katrina washed up many bodies out of their final resting places and hundreds more are still missing. The bones could be from anyone. It's easy to see their point of view, but one would think they would be interested in body parts found on land where the flood waters didn't reach even during the hurricane.
With lackluster response from law enforcement, the story takes a unique twist as the ghosts take matters in their own hands and help Aiden and Kendall solve the mystery but also save Kendall's life.
Deadly Night is a great haunted house murder mystery for everyone, including those that may not enjoy horror.
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