In Mishkin’s debut supernatural thriller, two men investigate a medium who may be compelling a powerful god to do his bidding.
Zephyr Wayne’s first task at a company called Odd Jobs partners him with a peculiar, tall man named James Rathbone. Their boss sends them to check on the sickly Helena Lawson, whose close association with a medium, Kenton Dean, may be worsening her condition. Zephyr is an apparent schizophrenic, who’s been conversing with his dead mother, JJ, for years; however, when he and James stop by Dean’s live show, he realizes that JJ isn’t just in his head—he’s actually capable of seeing and talking to ghosts. One spirit in particular appears to be feeding Dean information, which the medium uses to impress people with his skills. But Zephyr and self-proclaimed alchemist James quickly learn that the ghost is actually the Hidden King, a god of death, whom Dean appears to control by using an elixir. The two men look for a way to sever the god/medium connection, as well as save Helena, who turns out to be much more than a tortured, elderly woman. Readers may find Mishkin’s story jarring at first, as it introduces its magic quietly, as simply another plot element. Early on, for example, James is shown attempting a spell and failing for the ninth time; his cat Tango’s newfound ability to talk, he says, was an “accident.” Readers will comfortably settle into the story, however, once James and Zephyr team up; the author unnervingly reveals the full scale of the latter’s power, for example, when Zephyr hears a “low, reedy voice” at Dean’s show. JJ predominantly serves as comic relief, typically hurling insults at James, who can neither see nor hear her. But late in the story, the author effectively reveals something significant about the mother-son relationship, which puts their posthumous bond into question. Mishkin reserves much of the book’s action for the second half, but it’s worth the wait—particularly when the two men traverse Helena’s maze-like house and face lethal traps, angry spirits and a horde of rats. A few elements are unfortunately underused, such as Odd Jobs itself; just a detail or two about other jobs might have made for some very amusing (or eerie) moments.
An occasionally bizarre, often fascinating paranormal thriller.