Ghost Talkers

Written by Mary Robinette Kowal
Review by Kristen McDermott

When Kowal’s popular and addictive Glamourist series came to an end, fans of her magic-enhanced Regency mystery/romance mourned, but they will be happy to pick up this new series about a young American medium, Ginger Stuyvesant, who works in the WWI Allied Spirit Corps. A talented, intelligent channeler and extra-corporeal traveler, she interviews the shades of just-killed Allied soldiers to pinpoint German troop movements and strategies. Ginger loves her work and her British fiancé, Ben Harford, equally, but finds herself thrust into the hell of wartime France when she uncovers a traitor in the Allied forces who can only be exposed with ghostly intelligence.

Ginger’s best friend Helen, a West Indian medium, adds diversity to the usual cast of practical British types who make up the Corps. Ginger is a plucky and compassionate figure whom readers will want to know more about, particularly since Kowal doesn’t waste time on her personal history but leaps directly into a narrative that moves at a brisk pace. The novel cleverly draws on the historical Spiritualist movement for the big “what-if” that powers the plot, although coincidences are a bit too numerous and the formulaic mystery lacks suspense. The device of indicating a character’s emotions through the color of her aura also becomes a bit repetitive. Still, Kowal creates a believable military technology out of communion with the dead while neatly avoiding its messier metaphysical implications, keeping the focus rightly on Ginger, her sense of humor, and her adventurous spirit(s).