Friday, December 30, 2011

Review: "Dead Eye: The Skinwalker Conspiracies" by Jim Bernheimer

Mike Ross is a man with two problems: the ghosts he can see and the girlfriend he doesn't have.

Mike is a Ferryman -- a person with the ability to see (and affect) dead people and to help them cross into the next world. That ability helps him on his quest to track down the ghost who possessed his father and ran off years ago, leaving Mike and his mother on their own. Ghosts like those are called Skinwalkers for their ability to steal a person's body and use it to rejoin the living, and they play a dominant role in this installment of Bernheimer's "Dead Eye" series. As you probably guessed from the name.

(I should add a disclaimer: "The Skinwalker Conspiracies" is the second book in the "Dead Eye" series. I intended to buy the first, but, well, I didn't. I haven't read the first book, obviously, so I'm making allowances for questions that arose relating to backstory.)

Accompanying Mike on his journey to find the ghost running his father's body are a Civil War-era ghost named Amos and a blind preacher named Silas, who can see ghosts, Mike and anything Mike touches. Along the way, Mike and his companions meet various spirits, many of them people you'll recognize: Virginia Poe (cousin/wife of Edgar Allen), Lee Harvey Oswald (with a different backstory than you might expect), Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto ... and, you know, they all fit nicely into the plotline. (The concept of skinwalkers made keeping straight who was whom -- and when -- a bit complicated, but I'm not sure how that could have been avoided.)

More mundanely, Mike is lonely. With his life constantly in danger from his paranormal obligations, he wonders, what kind of woman would want to be with him? Considering the glimpses we get into his past romantic attachments, it's a valid question. That's not to say this is a touchy-feely book, just that Mike returns to the idea of companionship throughout his adventures.

We spend a lot of time watching as Mike kicks various ghosts' butts, picks up a few new nifty tricks and builds a new life for himself in the process. He helps several random ghosts find peace and even ensures that a criminally neglectful mother comes to justice, with a little help from the ghost of her son's father. Basically, he's a good guy caught up in a not-so-good situation.

I especially liked the ability he learns from honeymooner ghost Tabitha, though I have questions about exactly why that ability works. Highlight this paragraph if you don't mind mildly spoiler-ish information: Tabitha can pull "ghost" copies of objects from anything in the real world, and she helps Mike figure out how to do the same. It's immensely helpful, as it means he can equip himself with weapons that ghosts can feel.  But ... do inanimate objects really have "ghosts"? I mean, Tabitha creates copies of magazines. Are we supposed to believe that, say, U.S. Weekly has a soul?

Nitpicks aside, my only real complaint with this book is that it reads like Bernheimer's editor worked on it the day before he was supposed to retire. Typos? Check. Text in the wrong font? Check. There's even a sentence that looks like it either lead into or ended a paragraph that got cut. I wouldn't go as far as to say there were errors on every page, but if you care at all about the quality of writing, it's prevalent enough to drive you nuts.

I wasn't able to find any information on a sequel to this book, so I'm not sure whether that's in the offing, but at this price point -- I paid $2.99 for the e-book -- I'd read a third entry in the "Dead Eyes" line. I just hope Bernheimer finds a new editor.

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