Saturday, August 07, 2010

Review - Downside Ghosts Series by Stacia Kane

The Downside Ghosts Series:

Book: Unholy Ghosts (Downside Ghosts 1) 
Author: Stacia Kane
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0345515575
Published: May 25, 2010
(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders)


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

Book: Unholy Magic (Downside Ghosts 2)
Author: Stacia Kane
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0345515582
Published: July 6, 2010
(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders)


For Chess Putnam, finding herself near-fatally poisoned by a con psychic and then stopping a murderous ghost is just another day on the job. As an agent of the Church of Real Truth, Chess must expose those looking to profit from the world’s unpleasant little poltergeist problem—humans filing false claims of hauntings—all while staving off any undead who really are looking for a kill. But Chess has been extra busy these days, coping with a new “celebrity” assignment while trying on her own time to help some desperate prostitutes.

Someone’s taking out the hookers of Downside in the most gruesome way, and Chess is sure the rumors that it’s the work of a ghost are way off base. But proving herself right means walking in the path of a maniac, not to mention standing between the two men in her life just as they—along with their ruthless employers—are moving closer to a catastrophic showdown. Someone is dealing in murder, sex, and the supernatural, and once again Chess finds herself right in the crossfire.

Book: City of Ghosts (Downside Ghosts 3)
Author: Stacia Kane
Publisher: Del Rey
ISBN: 978-0345515599
Published: July 27, 2010
(Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders)


Chess Putnam has a lot on her plate. Mangled human corpses have started to show up on the streets of Downside, and Chess’s bosses at the Church of Real Truth have ordered her to team up with the ultra-powerful Black Squad agency to crack the grisly case.

Chess is under a binding spell that threatens death if she talks about the investigation, but the city’s most notorious crime boss—and Chess’s drug dealer—gets wind of her new assignment and insists on being kept informed. If that isn’t bad enough, a sinister street vendor appears to have information Chess needs. Only he’s not telling what he knows, or what it all has to do with the vast underground City of Eternity.

Now Chess will have to navigate killer wraiths, First Elders, and a lot of seriously nasty magic—all while coping with some not-so-small issues of her own. And the only man Chess can trust to help her through it all has every reason to want her dead.


Every now and then I come across a book or series that is so different and so well written I want to weep for joy. The first three books of the Downside Ghosts series by Stacia Kane are just such books.

The Downside Ghosts series is set in the United States after the ghosts have risen, attacked, and been brought to heel by the Church of Real Truth. The Church is now in charge. I'm not going to discuss each of the books in depth because the back cover copy gives you the flavor of each story. To tell you more would come dangerously close to spoilers.

Chess Putnam is an incredibly flawed protagonist. She's a functional drug addict. She is also a church witch for the Church of Real Truth and is a Debunker. Debunkers investigate reports of hauntings. She lives off the Church campus in Downside, a very seedy part of the the incredible world built by Stacia Kane. She is mired in drugs. And yet, I like her. I don't always like what she does, but I like her.

Throughout the three books we get to see Chess in action. And I do mean action. She doesn't just say a couple of spells and all is well. She gets her hands dirty, very dirty. In addition to Chess, we meet Terrible (the enforcer for Chess' primary drug dealer), Bump (her primary drug dealer), Lex (the son of a rival of Bump's), many of the other residents of Downside and many of the employees of the Church. The stories suck you in, and you end up caring about the 'good' guys. By good I mean not as bad as the bad guys. No one seems truly good in the dark and dystopian world of Downside and the Church of Real Truth.

The world building is superb in this series. I feel as if I could find my way around the Church (if it actually existed). I know what Downside looks like. The cases that Chess must solve in each book are well written, edge of your seat mysteries. There are elements of horror in these stories that suit this grim world. The interactions between the characters are believable and vivid. I must admit that I read many scenes more than once. Not because I did not understand what happened, but because they were so well written that I wanted to savor them again. These are books I will reread.

Ms. Kane has taken risks with this series (see drug addicted primary character above, for example). I feel that the risks were well taken. If you like your urban fantasy very dark and grimy I highly recommend the Downside Ghosts series.

I give each of the books 5 Qwills.


  1. Great review!This series is one of my paranormal genre that i would love to read.thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you! It's a wonderful series. I hope you have a chance to read these first 3 books.

  3. Wow, I REALLY want to read this now! Great overview of the series!

  4. So glad you enjoyed reading this. I have to say it really is a great series. I have City of Ghosts here to get into yet, and I'm really excited to get to it. :) Just saw on twitter today the fourth book will be out in fall of 2011. Great!

  5. @Dazzling Mage. Thank you. :)

    @Melissa I adore this series. The characters stay with you. And they are so well written.