by Lawrence Watt-Evans
Review by Drew Bittner
CreateSpace Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9781466291539
Date: 09 September 2011 List Price $14.98 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Gregory Kraft lives in the Washington DC area, trying his best to be normal. Problem is, he isn't. By night, he sees ghosts and monsters; when asleep, he dreams about those who suffer from predators. When he begins to dream about a Kentucky boy befriended by a hungry ghost, Greg can't let it go.
Whatever the cost, he has to find out what's going on and save the boy, if he can.
In One-Eyed Jack by Lawrence Watt-Evans, Greg narrates his story of being overwhelmed by terrible nightmares--although he knows they are anything but--and how he is driven to intervene. He's not exactly superhero material: he has no college education, a tenuous job history, and friends who suffer their own curses as well. But he has what every hero needs most, and that's the courage not to look away when he can save a life.
In his dreams, a boy named Jack is being devoured a bit at a time by a ghostly woman. Greg uses the little he knows to trace the boy to Kentucky, and tracks him down. Eventually, he faces off with the ghost and learns her story, that she was a mother of three who starved her children to death. Now she wants a second chance, and figures she can get it by eating Jack a bit at a time.
Greg's investigation doesn't go unnoticed, however, and the local cops ask him about how a guy from DC comes to be in their neighborhood. Lucky for Greg, he didn't arrive in town until after the boy was first attacked, but they're keeping an eye on him anyway.
The problem is, Jack believes that the ghost loves him sincerely and he wants to help redeem her. Greg tries to convince Jack that the ghost is lying, that she only wants to gobble him up, but the naive teenager won't be persuaded.
If he wants to save Jack's life, Greg is going to have to do it the hard way: by calling on all of his sanity-shaking psychic abilities, and discover the fourth talent his mentor claimed he had but never revealed. It'll take everything he has, and Greg will have to call in favors from some dangerous friends (including the fascinating Madame Melisandra) if he's going to defeat this ravenous ghost.
Watt-Evans has been a novelist for decades and his mastery of the form is fully on display in One-Eyed Jack. Greg's character is quickly and confidently established, his world is skillfully drawn and the nature of his conflict--and the temptation not to be a hero--is clearly defined early on. When he gets to Kentucky, his encounters all feel real, whether it's with suspicious neighbors, a world-weary detective, or two worried parents.
You may be wondering if the next sentence begins with "unfortunately"...and it doesn't. There's no catch to this review, no "aha!" waiting to pounce. Watt-Evans has delivered a solid, entertaining and fast-paced novel; he's also selling it as an ebook through his website. Readers who prefer hard copy can buy it that way as well.
If you're looking for a new voice in urban fantasy, offered by a master author, you need look no further.