In the last days of Word War I, influenza ravages the town of Buchanan, Illinois. But a more menacing plague endangers the town: hatred of Germans.
As her drunken father and younger brother, Peter, crow about the “Kraut” they’ve just killed with their bare hands, Ivy Rowan staggers from her sickbed. Appalled at their vicious racism, Ivy packs her bags and takes a room in the home of May Dover. Like Ivy, May has recently lost a beloved young man to the war: Ivy’s older brother, Billy, and May’s husband, Eddie, were both killed in action. May tinkers with a Ouija board, trying to contact her husband. But Ivy dreads seeing the dead, for the women in her family have a history of seeing harbinger spirits. Wracked with guilt, Ivy seeks out the surviving brother of the man they killed. Daniel Schendel tries to push Ivy away, but she keeps coming back, and soon they can no longer ignore the sexual tension tethering them together. Their love affair is scored by the vibrant jazz music drifting through Daniel’s windows; across the street, an impromptu jazz club has formed, welcoming everyone, regardless of race, and Ivy can't resist the tempting melodies. Lurking outside, however, is Lucas, a menacing member of the American Protection League, who labels Ivy a German-sympathizing whore. Meanwhile, Ivy helps two women working for the Red Cross, driving their ambulance, which careens around town every night rescuing influenza victims. As the death count rises, Lucas’ threats intensify, and Billy’s ghostly appearances increase, Ivy struggles to uncover Daniel’s secrets. A successful teen author, Winters (The Cure for Dreaming, 2014, etc.) threads her first novel for adults with paranormal elements, manipulating them to build toward a surprising revelation. Yet the tale reads rather simply, missing opportunities to darken the atmosphere or ratchet up the tension.
An intriguing yet thin paranormal read.