Publish Date: Out now
How we got this book: ARC from the publisher via Netgalley
What lies beneath…
Clare Cermak’s adjusting to a new man in her life—and a lot of ghosts. The passing of Clare’s aunt gave way to a sizeable inheritance of not only money, but also the ability to communicate with the dead. At the same time, she met Zach Slade, a private detective with a rough past, and just like Clare, he’s not yet ready to accept her gift—or his own.
But Clare has another matter to look into. A multimillionaire needs her help after relocating an old ghost town to his mountain estate. The bones of a murdered prospector are making nightly appearances in his guests’ beds. When the gold miner’s ghost contacts Clare, she promises to help find the name of his killer—but someone doesn’t want the past revealed and might find her first…
This blurb came from Goodreads.
E: I first discovered Owens through her Heart Mate series several years ago and was touched not just by her storytelling ability but with the lyrical nature of her words. As a result I have followed her to this her fourth series. We reviewed Ghost Seer the first installment of this series earlier this year and thought it was a solid opening to a new world. As a result I eagerly requested a copy of Ghost Layer when it became available for review and I am glad I did. I thought the promise I sensed is well on its way to being delivered.
Marlene: I was one of the co-reviewers for the first book in this series, and just like my colleague above, I thought it was a good opening for a series and wanted to see where she went with it. Sometimes it takes me a while to get into an Owens series; I love the Celta series now, but the first time I read Heart Mate I was kind of ‘meh’. It got me on the second read. This Ghost Seer series seems to be getting me on the second book. I enjoyed Ghost Layer more than Ghost Seer, I think because some of worldbuilding is out of the way.
Also I adore the ghost-dog Enzo (I hope my cats can’t read this) and any scene where he bounces in has a spark of humor and whimsy to lighten the ghostly load.
E: I have to admit it took a second reading of Heart Mate for me as well but it was all she wrote after that.
Clare and Zach are going through a couple of different journeys. Each is having to deal with the knowledge they happen to have something a bit extra which needs to be controlled or it will control them. The other is navigating their still young but very intense relationship. One thing which bothered me about Ghost Seer is how it seemed to be very focused on Clare’s personal journey and left Zach very much in the support role. While the main focus of this installment was on Clare, Zach’s abilities and his reluctance to deal with them because of his past also started to play a significant role. I really enjoyed how Clare started to push Zach and insist that he share with her as he insisted she share with him. It was part of their growing relationship and something Zach needed to face so he could start to move forward again.
Marlene: The thing that makes Clare and Zach’s relationship so interesting is that they both have gifts which they have spent their entire lives denying. Because their romantic relationship came about because of changes in their lives that neither of them wanted to accept, and because any future relationship is going to require that they not only accept those gifts, but use them in tandem to help each other, their relationship sometimes took a ‘one step forward, two steps back’ rhythm. Zach is aware that he only found Clare because he got injured, but that doesn’t mean he always thinks the good outweighs the bad. A lot of Zach’s journey in this story is accepting who and what he is, and that he is part of a growing partnership.
E: There was certainly a dance involved I agree. This particular case which started with Clare and spread to include Zach helped encourage more acceptance in the use of their gifts. Clare was still dealing with relatively benign ghosts and learning more about what she should be able to do with ghosts. Almost like she was going through progressively harder ‘layings’ building confidence and learning skills before hopefully having to face evil. Zach on the other hand was struggling with his guilt about the death of his brother, his mother’s mental absence, and how he needed to pay attention to his feelings not just to help solve a case but to also protect Clare. In addition, Zach was still dealing with his mental depression and anger over his career ending injury and the resultant adjustments to how he was accustomed to living.
Marlene: The story of this particular ‘ghost laying’ added a whole cast of baddies as well as letting readers see a bit more of the workings of Rickman Investigations, now that Clare and Zach are both working for the company. It’s getting clearer by the minute that every operative at Rickman’s is not only good at his or her job, but also has some spark of supernatural talent. This crew is starting to remind me of Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters, where everyone has a psychic talent and covers problems that regular law enforcement doesn’t believe exists.
E: As always with Owens’ writing I found her supporting cast intriguing and relatively well fleshed out. I continued to enjoy the presence of Clare’s ghost dog familiar, Enzo, and how Zach started talking to him as well. I also thought the touch of him having his own role to play and rules within that role helped motivate Clare into continuing to work to claim her power. Like Marlene, I am also rather intrigued with Zach’s landlady, his employer, Rickman, and his employer’s wife. I am hoping they continue to play a prominent role and that Owens continues to divulge bits and pieces about them. I think they have some unexpected depths and more of a stake in Zach and Clare than what seems apparent.
Marlene: The case that Clare has to solve concerns a ghost who keeps leaving his bones in women’s beds. Which sounds yucky. (At least they are dry bones). The ghost wants to move on, but he’s not just a ghost. He’s also the remnant of a crime that reaches from the 1880s to the 2010s. And someone doesn’t want Clare to discover the truth, old or new. The small community that has grown up around an old ghost town, and one arrogant, rich bastard’s nearby remote mansion, contains more than enough nasty characters to commit multiple crimes, including several attempts to murder Clare. One of the things that bothered me in the story was just how evil all the red herring characters seemed to be. While the villain gets their just desserts at the end, I really wanted a few more people to get theirs.
E: I loved the inclusion of the crime, and the random dry bones. I think this particular ghost during life probably caused a lot of young women to sigh longingly, older women to smile and shake their heads, and men to either envy and want to be him or despise him. It was a lot of fun watching him unleash his charm on Clare as he tried to help her lay him to rest. And the thank you at the end **sigh**. I have to admit I was a bit curious about how the arrogant, rich bastard moved the entire town, and ended up with people who had a vested interest in the town and its history scattered between the town and his mansion. Like Marlene I had a rather strong dislike to several of the individuals and while the ending worked, I wanted retribution spread a bit further.
Marlene: The case provided some serious hitches in the growth of the relationship between Clare and Zach. Clare kept getting seriously hurt, over and over. She was poisoned, she was pushed down a flight of stairs, she was shot at, etc. She was never fully healed from any of her attacks. Zach kept trying to protect her, and got a bit overbearing about it, which caused a lot of tension. And that tension just kept ratcheting up instead of being dealt with until the end. They both got a mild case of stupid about the effect they were having on each other.
E: As I mentioned earlier, I agree with Marlene about how this case forced Clare and Zach to work on juggling their personal relationship with their professional relationship. Like always I enjoyed the worldbuilding and the little touches added to make this world seem three-dimensional. I am certainly looking forward to the next installment, especially after reading the teaser at the end. Poor Clare and Zach will have their work cut-out for them I think.
I give Ghost Layer a B+
Marlene: Overall, I enjoyed the story, and I’m glad that she’s continuing the series with next year’s Ghost Killer. I’m looking forward to exploring more Wild West ghost legends (this story was based on a real ghost) as well as watching Zach and Clare figure out the terms of their partnership. And I want more Enzo!
I give Ghost Layer a B+
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