A Sanctuary of Spirits (The Spectral City Novels Book 2)
This second book in Hieber’s Spectral City series returns with another powerful, evocative story set in this unique alternative history of 1899 New York City in which the NYPD has a secretive paranormal department where mediums work with ghostly spirit guides to solve crimes. This refreshing and inventive setting provides a wonderful freshness to the crowded murder mystery shelf, and the supernatural elements evoked by the work of the Spiritualist crime fighters are interesting, emotional, and intriguing.
Readers will benefit from – and enjoy – Hieber’s previous book, The Spectral City, which introduces this world and the main character, Eve Whitby. Eve is a cautious, empathetic medium who leads séances with three other mediums, working with the dead and the living to solve crimes. This book quickly dives into an atmospheric and moody mystery involving the seemingly impossible: a criminal who can hurt the dead. (Sensitive readers should be aware that there are child victims, but there is no in-scene violence depicted, just the aftereffects.) Most challenging for Eve and her squadron of mediums is that ghosts are as unreliable as humans.
Hieber expertly mixes atmospheric setting with compelling and complicated relationships – grandmother to granddaughter, friendship between women, a burgeoning romance between individuals of different cultural backgrounds, the tenuous threads connecting the dead to the living – with an unearthly and moody plot. The social mores and restrictions of late 19th-century life are still real in this world, making Eve’s work and her burgeoning romance with the Jewish Detective Jacob Horowitz resonant and emotionally satisfying. Her world building is rich and imaginative, diving into the everyday realities of what life would be like if the living could communicate with the undead.
This is a compelling read that will leave readers eager for the next in the series; start with the first book to most enjoy the growth of characters in this one.