Review: Ghosts of Gotham by Craig Schaefer

Rating: ★★★★

Synopsis

Irresistibly drawn to mysteries, if only to debunk them, reporter Lionel Page exposes supernatural frauds, swindlers, and charlatans. His latest case is an obsession—at least for an ancient and wealthy heiress: verify the authenticity of a lost Edgar Allan Poe manuscript circulating through New York City’s literary underworld. But the shrewd Regina Dunkle offers more than money. It’s a pact. Fulfill her request, and Lionel’s own notorious buried past, one he’s been running from since he was a child, will remain hidden.

As Lionel’s quest begins, so do the warnings. And where rare books go, murder follows. It’s only when Lionel meets enigmatic stranger Madison Hannah, his personal usher into the city’s secret history, that he realizes he’s being guided by a force more powerful than logic…and that he isn’t just following a story. He is the story.

Now that the true purpose of his mission is revealing itself in the most terrifying ways, it may finally be time for Lionel to believe in the unbelievable.

Review

“I am thinking,” the voice in the chaos said to Lionel, “of writing a new tragedy. You’re going to play the hero.”

I received an advanced reading copy of Ghosts of Gotham in exchange for an honest review. Thank you to Craig Schaefer and 47North for the opportunity.

Lionel Page is an investigative journalist who often goes deep undercover to uncover charlatan healers, psychics, and magicians. After exposing Reverend Wright as a fraud to his many admirers Lionel is approached by an apprentice journalist. This ‘cub’ is asking questions about Lionel’s buried past, prying into areas that he doesn’t feel comfortable discussing, and the young writer has a newspaper highlighting what happened to Lionel when he was 5-years-old. Lionel worked tirelessly to become one of the best reporters for Channel 7 news, is almost a celebrity after releasing a new book relating to his investigative escapades but thinks that his past being unearthed will ruin his career. That very day Lionel meets a mysterious lady called Regina Dunkle who has a proposition for him. Regina wants a rare first draft of an Edgar Allen Poe tale that is rumoured to be in New York. If Lionel helps her obtain this rarity then she offers to make his past disappear. He accepts and this is where the narrative really begins.

Schaefer is a hybrid author with works such as Harmony Black, Daniel Faust, The Wisdom’s Grave and Revanche Cycle. He was a #SPFBO semi-finalist in 2018 and a finalist in 2019 and he is a favourite of Mihir’s from Fantasy Book Critic who is a reviewer I really trust. Previously, I had only read Winter’s Reach by Schaefer but after reading Ghosts of Gotham I will probably devour his back catalogue as fast as possible.

Ghosts of Gotham features elements of various genres such as urban fantasy reminiscent of Stephen King’s The Drawing of the Three, gothic horror tales, thrillers and a tinge of mystery to boot. It also contains a plethora of details and intricacies regarding Greek myth which reminded me of Dyrk Ashton’s Paternus trilogy. The first twenty percent seems like a typical thriller as Lionel goes from Chicago to New York and does a bit of sleuthing to find out more about the Poe draft. Who owns it, when it is going on sale, about a secret cult, details about an employee of the Russian mafia and information about a Wall Street broker who loves drugs and girls slightly too young for his age. Throughout the narrative, it’s revealed that New York has a hidden darker side that features magic, ghosts, ghouls, grotesque murders, goddesses, machinery that harvests souls and a mysterious gentleman with blue eyes who seems familiar to Lionel yet he has no idea why.

We mainly follow Lionel’s third-person perspective but a few chapters are from Maddie’s viewpoint. She is an actress who keeps crossing paths with Lionel with such regularity that surely it must be planned or fate? She is an intriguing member of the ensemble who also has a past that she is trying to escape from. Other characters include the slimy Wall Street broker Wade Dawson, Lionel’s ex-girlfriend and current Boss Bianca and Dergwyn who is a ghoul princess and they are all crafted expertly.

Each chapter takes approximately ten minutes to read, It’s hi-octane, gripping fiction that had my eyes glued to my kindle until I’d finished. I raced through this amalgamation of genres in two days and totally enjoyed the ride. The build-up to the culmination is composed well and includes a decent amount of exciting reveals and plot twists. The finale is extremely satisfying and the novel is completely self-contained. That being said, how it concludes I could imagine Schaefer returning to this version of New York and these characters in the future should he see fit. An incredibly exciting urban fantasy, thriller and mystery concoction that comes highly recommended for fans of all those genres.

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