CITY OF MASKS by Daniel Hecht


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The first in a series featuring an intrepid ghostbuster who uncovers the mystery behind a haunted house, by the thriller author of, most recently, The Babel Effect, 2001).

If there’s one place where a ghostbuster shouldn’t have to scrounge for work, it’s New Orleans. Old, atmospheric, irremediably corrupt, it’s the sort of town where the closets have so many skeletons that grave-robbers can work without spades. In the 150-year-old Beauforte House, Lila Beauforte Warren claims that a ghost with the head of a pig is regularly attacking her in her sleep. The Beaufortes think Lila is just crazy, but Paul Fitzpatrick (the psychiatrist they brought in to examine her) suggests that they retain a parapsychologist. Enter Lucretia (“Cree”) Black, a Seattle ghostbuster. Cree believes that powerful emotions set off electromagnetic “broadcasts” that can appear as ghosts, and she researches the history of the house to find out what outrages from the past could be responsible for such present disturbances. Working with Paul, she digs up the usual New Orleans stuff (masters who abused slaves, etc.) but can’t detect any of the typical broadcasts she finds in true hauntings. There had been an unsolved murder in the Beauforte House some years earlier, but the victim (a local newscaster) didn’t in any way resemble the apparition now tormenting Lila. Is it possible Lila is seeing something real? Or can we be dealing with a case of suppressed memory, something that happened, not in the house, but in Lila’s past? One clue comes to Cree on Mardi Gras, when she notices costumed marchers wearing pig heads similar to the one described by Lila. New Orleans is a city of masks, after all, and they can cover up some very ugly realities.

Sharp, fast, and deft, a gripping story that with the skill of a Wallenda walks the tightrope between the real and the supernatural.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2003
ISBN: 1-58234-341-1
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 2002


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