The Night Is Forever by Heather Graham
The Night Is Forever by Heather Graham (Harlequin Mira, 2013) Krewe of Hunters 11, is set at the Horse Farm, a therapy centre west of Nashville. It was founded by Marcus Danby and Olivia Gordon works there as a therapist. Marcus was the rich son who fell from grace and then recovered through his love of horses. He set up the centre to help others. Now he’s dead. Apparently it was caused by drugs. He fell into a ravine while high. Except the staff members of the centre don’t believe it. So Olivia calls her cousin in the FBI and, without alerting the local police, a special FBI Krewe unit recruits Dustin Blake to go undercover and find out what really happened. Dustin and the others in the Krewe have supernatural abilities. This is potentially useful when you want to find out how someone died. All you need do is ask the ghost. Except, of course, it isn’t that simple. Olivia may be a ghost magnet, able to attract and talk with ghosts, an ability she shares with Dustin. Yet it’s not wholly controllable. And it’s only useful if the ghost actually knows whodunnit. In this case, the killer came from behind so the ghost is not a reliable witness. It’s tough when you find you have unresolved issues on Earth. It stops you from going toward the light.
It has been something of a revelation to read this. Yes, my apologies: another of my somewhat naive statements. So here come the required words of explanation. This is my first look at the writing phenomenon that is Heather Graham. She’s a prolific author, primarily focusing on romantic fiction. As a mere male and having no shame, I admit to never having heard of her. To make this worse, I confess to being inexperienced when it comes to labelling a book like this so I’ll approximate with “paranormal romance mystery with thriller elements”. It takes Ghost Whisperer to a different place with the FBI solving crimes which helps the ghosts cross over (or not, as the case may be). I’m more usually involved with supernatural books which set out to thrill or chill. This somewhat demystifies the reader’s experience by allowing the FBI agents with the right abilities to interview ghosts in exactly the same way they would live witnesses. Indeed, it’s fairly disconcerting to be confronted with this supernatural phenomenon as routine normality. It require a recalibration of reaction.
Under the circumstances, I’m going to ignore the supernatural and romantic elements. It seems to me that “books like this” stand or fall on the strength of the mystery plot. No matter where the evidence comes from, there has to be a murder with no immediately clear suspect(s) in sight. The investigator reacts to the unfolding drama by interviewing all the relevant people, reviewing the evidence and then catching the killer(s). Obviously I can’t call this a police procedural although the FBI does eventually set up a formal liaison with the local law. Equally, it’s not an amateur sleuth or PI novel. It’s not even a classic “undercover” operation because several local people immediately understand what’s going on and react both positively and negatively to our hero’s arrival. This creates thriller opportunities with threats to Olivia and, later, a second death. On this front, I’m pleased to report this is a meticulously plotted mystery. In every respect, the author has gone out of her way to detail where everyone appears to be at each point in time, and to what extent third party sightings confirm appearances. It’s a very pleasing book because, insofar as any mysteries do, this plays fair with the reader. Even the ghosts get in on the act and either cannot see their killer or can only see someone wearing camouflage. The whodunnit is there to be worked out if you invest the effort.
I’m therefore able to confirm The Night Is Forever as unusual by my standards — I should read more fiction aimed at the female market — but very good. Even the romance element is kept within reasonable limits and avoids the more excessive sappiness that alienates elderly male readers like myself. So, if female readers of these reviews are prepared to act on the recommendation of a mere man, this is well worth reading. Even men are likely to find the mystery worth solving, assuming they can, of course.
For a review of the next in the series, see The Cursed.
A copy of this book was sent to me for review.