Sacrificial Magic (Downside Ghosts #4) by Stacia Kane
Publisher: DelRey/March 27, 2012
Downside Ghosts series
Kind thanks to DelRey and NetGalley for providing a review copy
When Chess Putnam is ordered by an infamous crime boss—who also happens to be her drug dealer—to use her powers as a witch to solve a grisly murder involving dark magic, she knows she must rise to the challenge. Adding to the intensity: Chess’s boyfriend, Terrible, doesn’t trust her, and Lex, the son of a rival crime lord, is trying to reignite the sparks between him and Chess.
Plus there’s the little matter of Chess’s real job as a ghost hunter for the Church of Real Truth, investigating reports of a haunting at a school in the heart of Downside. Someone seems to be taking a crash course in summoning the dead—and if Chess doesn’t watch her back, she may soon be joining their ranks.
As Chess is drawn into a shadowy world of twisted secrets and dark violence, it soon becomes clear that she’s not going to emerge from its depths without making the ultimate sacrifice.
REVIEW (This is #4 in a series, and I’ve done my best to avoid spoilers, but the review assumes you’ve read the first 3)
In the 4th installment of Stacia Kane’s wonderful Downside Ghosts series, we get to see much deeper into Chess’ psyche than in any previous books, and to me, that was a wonderful thing. My favorite Churchwitch is still Debunking ghost claims, but this time, her dealer wants her to investigate a rash of fires that involve murder and magic, and his employees. Chess is forced to go to a school on the other side of town for answers, and her presence there is anything but welcome. It also doesn’t help that she’s on her ex’s territory, a fact that he’s very aware of. This really doesn’t help her current precarious relationship with Terrible and certainly keeps Chess on her toes. Then there’s the nasty ghost she has to contend with…
Like I said in the beginning, this was the most emotional of the series. Chess is not only navigating the nasty murders that are being committed, but she’s also navigating the unknown world of being loved; really and truly loved. Our favorite enforcer Terrible is firmly in the picture, but Chess can’t see past her own self-loathing in order to give everything she has to the relationship. It makes for frustrating reading, for sure, especially since we love Chess, and we want her to be happy. She steps on her own toes time and time again, to sometimes tragic effect. There’s one scene in here that will break your heart into a million pieces, and then some. However, Ms. Kane gives us some much needed insight (without being particularly graphic), into why Chess is so, so damaged, and that will break your heart too. It will also make you understand so much of why Chess is, well, Chess. We also get a little closer to some of the other characters, and the scenes with Elder Griffin are especially charming. Yes, charming. The author’s trademark tight plotting and prose are on full display here, and the killer in this one will give you chills (the ghost too *shudder*). This is a watershed book for Chess, and I can’t wait to see what’s in store for her in the next book!