Ghost of a Chance
by Simon R. Green
Cover Artist: Don Sipley
Review by Drew Bittner
Ace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780441019168
Date: 31 August 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The Carnacki Institute, a very secret bit of Her Majesty's government, acts to exorcise ghosts, defuse haunted places and generally keep the peace when it comes to the Afterlife. JC Chance, Melody Chambers, and Happy Jack Palmer are three of their agents--not their A-team, by any means, but pretty good nonetheless.
When the Oxford Circus Underground station erupts with supernatural mayhem, however, it's going to take all these three have got...plus a whole lot more.
This is the story of Ghost of a Chance, the start of the new Ghost Finders series by Simon R. Green. Starting with the exorcism of a hostile (and very old) presence in a very improbable setting, the adventure kicks into high gear when the agents are assigned to investigate Oxford Circus station. It seems something truly horrifying is going on down in the depths and there's nobody else to take the job.
Each of the three has a role to play: JC is the arrogant but too-often-right team leader; Melody is a peerless techno-geek; and Happy Jack is a self-medicating telepath. In spite of themselves, their success rate has been getting better and better--so as they head into the Underground, agents of the debased and treacherous Crowley Project are on their trail.
The Institute wants to keep the peace between living and dead, the Project only wants power, no matter what they have to do to get it. Natasha Chang and Erik Grossman, two of their mid-level agents--with a vast array of vices, sins and atrocities between them-- have been assigned to kill the three Institute agents and acquire whatever stirs in the subway tunnels.
Down in the depths, commuters have been lost (those that couldn't be evacuated in time, anyway) and reality itself is beginning to warp. JC and his team realize pretty quickly that this isn't any ordinary haunted house; this is something big, and evil, and hungry...
Which makes it about the worst time in the world to be distracted, but it seems that the mystery of a young woman's murder may prove the key to the entire event.
If JC and his team can't figure this one out, London is only the first stop on a dark, horrifying ride into nightmare.
Green's done a neat, scary turn in this book, creating a harrowing experience for all five agents. It's a tricky bit of writing, as there's no opportunity to bring in supporting characters or different locations--it's just the five of them, once the action truly begins, and the Oxford Circus' horribly altered platforms and tunnels. This has the effect of feeling claustrophobic after a while, which supports the horror of the tale very effectively.
The Carnacki agents are spelled out a bit too much early on, with a lot of their character traits described rather than revealed--this bit was perhaps the weakest part of the book, violating the rule of show don't tell. Ditto the Crowley agents later. They all are interesting characters in their own right, but Green pushes them on the reader in a rather heavy-handed fashion.
Apart from that, the story itself and the doings far underground will keep the reader turning pages more and more quickly. Like any good ghost story, Green builds the atmosphere to a peak. The solution appears to be inescapable, but the ramifications are unacceptable to one of the team--despite a threat that is overwhelming, imminent and all too deadly.
As a launching point for a new series, new readers and Green's legions of fans should find Ghost of a Chance a terrific kickoff, with lots of exciting adventures certainly in store.