Two centuries-old lovers capable of occupying others’ bodies stumble on a few people with the same ability, including one who proves menacing, in this supernatural novel.
Peter Ebersole’s pancreatic cancer means he has mere weeks to live, at least in his current body. He and his lover, Miriam, met nearly 700 years ago and can both inhabit, or ride, other people’s bodies. They carefully select hosts with few familial ties, as they’re essentially stealing the individuals’ lives. Sporting fresh, younger host bodies, Peter and Miriam, now the Hoffmans, start anew in Birmingham, Alabama. Though the couple have secured a substantial nest egg, Miriam gets a job at a PR firm. As riders are rare, she’s surprised when she discovers that two others at the firm have the same talent. But while assisting with a fundraising dinner for the growing American Values Party, Miriam and a rider co-worker spot another of their kind. (Riders can identify their own when their “original faces” are reflected in mirrors.) Unfortunately, this particular rider, Anwar, with a significant link to AVP, sees them as well. Since he considers both a threat, he initiates a plan to eliminate them. Brown (A Stone of Hope, 2015, etc.) raises the stakes by clarifying that Peter and Miriam are vulnerable: If the host body dies before the rider jumps to another one, the consequences are fatal. Anwar is an exceptional villain; the backstory reveals he had ridden the body of an infamous historical figure of the 20th century. In the present day, he’s using his AVP association to stir up trouble in the U.S. The author fortifies the narrative by addressing this special ability’s moral implication: Taking another body effectively ends the host’s life. And a rider may choose death over jumping to a person who has children. Abundant dialogue helps the story pop, especially when it’s satirical: After someone notes Miriam’s age is 700, she specifies that she’s “really only” 680.
A noteworthy baddie and a well-defined power give this otherworldly tale distinction.