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Four moon gifAce Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0441007244
How do you haunt a ghost? If the ghost happens to be vampire detective Jack Fleming, you prick his still very-much-alive conscience with evidence of a dame done wrong and lead him along a complicated trail of deceit and foul play. Add a soupcon of supernatural mystery -- the smell of freshly lit cigarettes in an empty bar, drinks that pour themselves, and lights that flash without warning -- and you just might hook this revenant for the remainder of his undead life.

Book: P. N. Elrod, Lady CrymsynJack Fleming left his reflection and many of his corporeal attributes at the bottom of a watery grave several years ago, but he never lost the instincts of the journalist he used to be. So when workers readying Jack's new nightclub (called Lady Crymsyn) for opening night uncover the bound and handcuffed skeleton of a woman in a red evening gown, Jack can't help but investigate. Post-mortal Jack might be, but he knows first-hand the horrors of death. At least Jack died quickly. Someone buried this unknown woman alive, and even a vampire shies away from that kind of horror.

Jack's quest for truth, justice and the 1930s' version of the American way involves everyone's favorite characters from the series -- massive mob boss Gordy Weems, crooner Bobbi Smythe, Jack's oh-so-proper partner Charles Escott -- and new faces from some unexpected Chicago byways. The search touches on mob business, soft-hearted (and soft-headed) racketeers, and the kind of dancing folks really did in the heyday of Swing. Elrod shows that good and evil are where you find them, and sometimes the state's vision of justice proves to be the greatest injustice of all.

Book: P. N. Elrod, The Dark SleepElrod's Vampire Files series featuring Jack Fleming may be unique in both mystery and fantasy annals for its consistently high quality and her steadfast refusal to repeat a plot or take the easy way out. The first person narration zips along like the patter of the best movies of the period, avoiding the twin roadblocks of pedantry and anachronism. Each of her sharply drawn characters boasts an individual voice and as many layers as anyone you might meet at your place of business or avoid on a darkened street. You find yourself casting her actors in your head, and their images linger long after the book's final page.

Which is only appropriate in a book about the many kinds of ghosts that dog us through our lives. The haunting affects every player on Lady Crymsyn's stage. Not only ghosts of thought, several of the characters serve as spirited memorials to friends and acquaintances who died during the course of the book's composition. They couldn't ask for a better way to live in the author's memory…or in ours.

Jean Marie Ward

Jean Marie Ward's story, "Embraceable Death," can be found in the October 2000 issue of Fantasy, Folklore & Fairytales.

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