Harper Blaine was doing all right in her life as a mid-to-low level Seattle P.I. At least until she died. For two minutes. Then things got weird.
“Greywalker” is the first in a series of supernatural thrillers from Kat Richardson. It has many of the ingredients of an origin story but to this reader’s eyes, none of the pitfalls. We get introduced to the main characters that will be running through the future of the series, but it never seems forced or built upon pure coincidence that they meet. As it is a first person story, we see everything through our heroine’s eyes, learning about this world as she does, but the author never cheats and neither hides information nor gives us more that Harper has, letting us share the joy of discovery with her. With origin stories, that actual adventure/plot tends to take a back seat to the set-up of what the author hopes to be an ongoing series, especially in fantasy-horror stories where the world being created is so far removed from our own. This is not the case here where the story propels the set-up and the author never treats us like morons who can’t keep up while at the same time never over complicates matters.
The story starts right off with our Harper getting savagely beaten by a very unhappy mark to the point that she learns after recovering that she had been dead for a little under two minutes. This seems to go well with the weird shit she’s starting to see, mostly a hazy-like film/fog and shapes that comes in & out of her vision, and seems to be increasing in both intensity & frequency. Her doctor is a borderline “crunchy granola” type o’ guy who is smart enough to realize that science can only explain so much in our world and suggests she visits a couple of friends who might have the answers she seeks. Eventually she meets up with the Danzingers, Ben & Mara. Ben, a university professor who specializes in the paranormal and his wife Mara, an Irish witch. A real witch, not one of those women who dances about in fields with flowing ribbons, celebrating her uterus or some such nonsense. They quickly know she is for real when she sees their live-in ghost and proceed to tell her how her life is never going to be the same.
You see, Harper is now a Greywalker. To sum up, the Grey is the space between our world and the parallel, paranormal world, kind of the transition zone. It is where creatures who have one foot in both worlds (like ghosts, vampires, elemental spirits) tend to hang out due to having both too much physical matter and paranormal energy (she explains it waaaay better than I can). When Harper died, she was briefly in this sphere and when she quickly came back, she brought some of it with her and can now both see and become fully immersed in it. Lucky girl. OR IS SHE?!? Bum bum BUUMM!!
The thing is, not only can she slip between these two worlds and see what and whom we can’t see, but they can see her in the Grey and know she’s a Greywalker when firmly in our physical world. She pretty much automatically sends out a signal like the old RKO Pictures logo that they pick up. Not necessarily such a good thing, as it turns the creatures of the dark have need of P.I.’s, too. Which also explains why two of the cases she gets after getting back to work are more than the normal fare. The search for a missing kid turns out to be because he was turned into a vampire and becomes abused by his not-so-nice sire and the search for a family heirloom in the form of an old organ turns out to be something far more sinister and dangerous. One of the things that I also really liked about this book was it didn’t fall into the trap of “Wow, my two totally unrelated cases I randomly took at the same time are conveniently related!” but she is able to use what she learns and who she meets through both of them to resolve each other in the finale.
Harper is a very real and well written woman. She doesn’t have any forced quirks that try to make her interesting and yet she naturally is. Even while she is coming to grips with everything in her life changing, she still lives her life. Working, falling for a handsome auctioneer and dealing with extra security needed at her office, where she meets up with Quentin, the kind of electronically-inclined guy we all wish we had in our life and who will continue to be quite helpful. She also comes to grips with everything in a very real and emotional way. We tend to forget when reading or watching horror stories that this is all new to the characters involved. While we are screaming at them “Of course it’s a vampire/ghost/giant radioactive lizard/killer ventriloquist dummy, you fool!!” because we know it is a work of fiction, if we were to suddenly find out that all our nightmares were real and everything we thought we knew was wrong…we’d freak the hell out. Harper does some of that here, but never to excess and never slows down the flow of the story doing so. Everything is used to good effect and helps us to understand what the hell is going on through her eyes. In fact, the real world never takes a back seat, whether it is Harper’s attempt at dating the aforementioned handsome auctioneer or the Danziger’s trying to care for their baby.
The writing is fast paced, but never rushed and things never lag. I had no trouble wanting to turn the next page, which is, more often than not, not always the case with me. I also want to make mention of the fact that I love that it takes place in Seattle. I love that city and it makes a fantastic location, one that is so sorely underused. Frankly I am tired of everything taking place in New York, Chicago or L.A. and having a city I have such affection for being the backdrop makes me very happy. In fact, a future novel makes use of Seattle’s underground and I can hardly wait to read it.
There seems to be a sub-genre appearing of supernatural detective stories. If you just dismiss this one as trying to cash in on that, you’d be doing both yourself & this book a great disservice. This is a wonderful, thrilling & very fun book that I thoroughly enjoyed reading. And what’s best is, I can’t wait to dive into the next one.