Leaving his actual body behind in prison, Smoke can move through the world as a ghost in this fantastic yet real portrait of a survivor seeking answers.
John “Smoke” Conlan has survived a brutal beating from his father, a murder conviction, and prison life. His uncanny ability evidently triggered by the beating, Smoke exists inside and outside the fictional Greater Denver Youth Offender Rehabilitation Center (unrealistically represented as a maximum security prison). Smoke keeps his physical body protected on the inside thanks to the balance of favors earned outside his body. On one such errand, he discovers that a young waitress at a seedy dive can actually see him. Smoke’s vivid present-tense narration is filtered according to his concerns. He insists that he is innocent of killing his favorite teacher but guilty of killing a fellow student in self-defense, keeping readers teetering between a belief that the punishment is justified and cheering Smoke on to fight for freedom. The narrative’s romance is chaste, and it tempers the intensity brought to the story by the threats of guards, fellow inmates, and outside criminals. Though the complex plot is based on an impossible premise, readers will be flipping the pages, watching the diverse cast (Smoke is white) race toward the climax.
Intertwined spectral and real worlds deliver double the thrills. (Paranormal suspense. 11-16)