In Anderson’s (Light, 2015, etc.) latest thriller, it’s up to a small group of people to stop an evil corporation from disrupting the balance between the spirit and material worlds.
When someone brutally murders Wisconsin tree farmer Ellen Groves, the Pentagon sends Lt. Col. Robert McMichaels to investigate out of suspicions that terrorists are targeting soldiers’ families. He meets up with Maj. Tom Groves and quickly learns that the Groves family, including sisters Diane and Nancy, believe something else entirely is afoot. They claim Ellen was one of the Guardians of the Watchtowers, controlling the flow of energy between the spiritual world and physical world. Meanwhile, Philip Ashur, CEO of XIIMI and master of the Black Arts, is plotting to kill all the Guardians, keeping a body part from each on ice to prevent their spirits from reaching the other side. Anderson’s novel triumphantly merges thriller elements with the supernatural: what seems like a typical murder investigation eventually pits the forces of good and evil against one another. The action scenes dabble in both. Ashur’s men kidnap McMichaels’ children, for example, leading to just one of the numerous gunfights. At the same time, Diane and Nancy, as well as others, like their aunts, are capable of magic. Diane transfers her spirit to a hawk for a particularly vicious attack entailing a bit of eye gouging. The story addresses an abundance of abstract notions, including reincarnation; for instance, Shelia Ryan, an attorney whom Ashur sends to purchase Ellen’s land, may have a change of heart once she remembers her past life from centuries ago in Egypt. Fortunately, the atypical concepts work well amid a genuine threat to the more familiar world: if Ashur succeeds at closing the spirit world, restless spirits in the physical realm will turn “vile, mean, and nasty.” Romantic interests develop perhaps a little too quickly, since they all seem predestined; Diane, who’s short with McMichaels at first, warms up to him immediately when realizing they were lovers in past lives. But Anderson rounds out his story with shocking deaths and a surprising ally for the Groves clan.
Steady pace keeps this novel consistently riveting and often entertaining.