The second entry of Coates’ promising paranormal thriller series, which centers on the homecoming of a former soldier who managed to beat death while serving in Afghanistan, will score high with readers who like tales that don’t follow the mainstream.
Hallie has returned from war not quite the same person who left; after an explosion that killed her for seven minutes, she was brought back from the dead. Ever since then, the daughter of a South Dakota rancher has been able to see ghosts and other things that go bump in the night. In this second installment of a planned trilogy, family friend Pabby, who owns a nearby ranch, has asked Hallie to help her stave off the forces of death that have come to claim her. Pabby says it’s not her time, and she knows that because her mother, who had second sight, was able to tell her she’d live for many more years. Now, a pack of black dogs, the harbingers of death, are camped out on Pabby’s doorstep, and she’s barricaded herself in the ranch house. Hallie, her deputy sheriff boyfriend, Boyd, and one of the harbingers soon find themselves caught up in a dance with Death, a dead man named Hollowell, who is tied to Boyd’s past, and a bunch of missing people who’ve slipped between worlds. In Hallie, Coates has created a strong and believable female protagonist who, while she doesn’t exactly embrace her ability to see spooky things others cannot, possess a weary acceptance of her fate. Coates’ writing is clean and solid, her plotting believable, even though the events are often otherworldly, and her voice strong and consistent. What makes her books more interesting than most is that she avoids the usual paranormal subjects and finds, instead of zombies and vampires, more fascinating and esoteric creatures upon which to balance the action.
A good, solid read that bubbles over into exciting at times, but readers who haven’t read her first volume (Wide Open, 2012) will be lost from the very first page.