Wide Open by Deborah Coates

Wide Open by Deborah Coates
Tor/March 13th, 2012
Kind thanks to Tor for providing a review copy

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days’ compassionate leave, her sister Dell’s ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell’s death was suicide, but Hallie doesn’t believe it. Something happened or Dell’s ghost wouldn’t still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell’s loss, think Hallie’s letting her grief interfere with her judgment.

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn’t have to.

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace. Soon, someone’s trying to beat her up, burn down her father’s ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie’s going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.

I love discovering new authors, and I especially love it when I discover one that will go on my autobuy. You know the feeling I’m talking about, where in the first few pages you know you’re really gonna like a book? That’s how I felt with Wide Open. Wide Open is Hallie Michaels’ story, and right away, you know you’re in for something unique. It begins when Hallie returns to South Dakota from Afghanistan to attend her sister Dell’s funeral. To hear the town tell it, Dell committed suicide, but Hallie knows better, and is determined to get to the bottom of it. With the help of her childhood friend, and Boyd, a sheriff’s deputy that has the same suspicions as Hallie, she’ll have to navigate some unusual, and possibly life threatening territory to find out the truth of her sister’s death. And there’s a storm coming…

Right away, the author plops you right down into the near stifling atmosphere of (rather stormy) small town South Dakota, and doesn’t let up on you. Hallie is a little more than normal, since she “died” in Afghanistan, was revived, and can now see ghosts on a near constant basis. One of them is Dell. The author manages to make the ghosts creepy and haunting without making them scary, and they’re not malicious, but they do want something of Hallie. She’s got 10 days to figure out what happened to her sister, and as it turns out, other women in the area that have gone missing. It may have something to do with Uku-Weber, and it’s founder Martin Weber, but Hallie’s not quite sure what. The company seemingly gets raves from the community, with its creation of new jobs and research into harnessing wind energy, but there’s something more diabolical going on, something involving magic, and possibly murder.

There are plenty of supernatural components in Wide Open for readers of fantasy, but the real magic lies in the characters. Hallie is moody and brittle much of the time, but we see her soften over the course of the novel, especially when it comes to Boyd. He’s determined to help Hallie, and she’s determined to push him away, and the almost-romance is actually kind of sweet (and it leaves plenty of good stuff for a next novel, maybe? Hopefully?) The writer’s staccato writing style served the story well, and her grasp on small town life is fascinating, plus there’s murder, magic, fire, and ghosts. How can you go wrong with that? Wide Open was a quick read for me, but that’s because I really didn’t want to put it down for long, and is a great debut fantasy. I have my fingers crossed for more Hallie and Boyd, but I’d be happy with anything from Deborah Coates. I urge you to give this one a try!