Reviewed by: E and Marlene
Clare Cermak has a gift for speaking to ghosts of the Old West, but in the latest from the author of Ghost Talker, she may soon join their ranks…
With Clare’s health fading, she and her partner—the love of her life—detective Zach Slade, head to Manitou Springs, Colorado, in search of the only healer who can help them: the ghost of Sister Juliana Emmanuel, whose healing skills live on in the afterlife.
Unfortunately for Clare, the nun’s ghost is elusive, and the town is teeming with spirits who all want to speak with Clare—newer ones, street kids who’ve been killed and want their bodies found and their murders avenged.
Now, with the help of Zach and Sister Juliana, Clare must find the killer before he strikes again. But to do so, she will face an evil that could destroy everything she and Zach hold dear—including their love…
*Blurb from Goodreads
E: Marlene and I have jointly reviewed the previous books in this series since Owens falls on our autobuy list so we decided to join opinions once more.
Marlene: Basically, we have a streak going and were all too happy to extend it to another entry in this series!
E: And what an entry this was! The last book was one of the darker installments in this series and really left a lingering mark on Clare, one which was steadily taking a greater and greater toll on Clare’s health. She had finally pushed past her reluctance to take up her calling and was no longer in danger of dying by rejecting her power but she also learned that spirits and ghosts could do much more to harm her then use her living warmth to power their trip to the next stop. Unlike regaining warmth once the ghosts are gone, the wound to Clare’s spirit remained. So the focus was on healing Clare and along the way things got complicated.
Marlene: Things always get complicated when Clare and Zach (and Enzo!) are on the case. That’s what makes this series so compelling. But up until now, a big chunk of the conflict has been Clare’s reluctance to accept her gift. At first it was only the thought of the alternative, death, that kept her in practice. Just as she’s finally accepted her gift and her calling, she’s forced to deal with a spirit wound that may kill her even quicker. Clare has just accepted that she will have regular clients. Now she has to put everything on hold to take herself as a client. And she is not happy about it. At all.
E: Clare not being happy was probably an understatement. She grew up as the only reliable person in her family and was used to being alone, independent, and fully in control of all aspects of her life. Through the previous books as Marlene mentioned above she was coming to terms to her new full complicated life and had finally reached an equilibrium when this happened. One of the things I loved in this book is how Clare reacted to the sudden change by fearing she was going to skew the sense of equal partnership with Zach. This has repercussions later and some very interesting developments involving Zach, Enzo, and Clare and their separate impressions of what partnership means.
Marlene: Both Clare and Zach have been loners for most of their lives. They are used to depending on no one but themselves. They have managed to carve out a partnership after a lot of difficulty by finally managing to recognize that each of them have strengths that the other lacks. But Zach has a protective streak a mile wide, and Clare rightfully fears that if she is dependent, he will become overprotective. Again. And she has deep-seated fears of her own about depending too much (at all) on anyone else, because there hasn’t been anyone in her life that she could depend on. Part of what makes this relationship work for the reader is that we see them negotiate this important boundary.
Something else about this series and their relationship that we have to be reminded of over and over is just how little world-time has elapsed between the beginning of the series and now. We are five books in, and it’s taken two years for those books to be published. But for Clare and Zach, it’s been less than six weeks. That’s a very short time to adjust to discovering that your entire life is going to be extremely different from what you planned, and to develop what looks like the relationship that will sustain the rest of that life. In this book we see some of the two steps forward (except it’s more like three now) and one step back involved in blending two adult lives into one.
E: Ooh very good point about the actual passage of book time vs reader time. They have made some major steps forward and have started developing the little wordless routines/habits that come with blending lives but neither is completely comfortable with their weaknesses being balanced by their partner’s strengths. In addition to working on their relationship it was good to see both Clare and Zach becoming more comfortable with their psychic abilities and willing to call others in their close circle out when they were keeping things hidden.
I do think a certain conversation/promise Zach made is going to rear its ugly head at the worst moment in the future with the foundation they are currently building and Enzo’s influence to help calm the storm. I have my hopes the circle of friends will add some buffering but I am afraid Clare is going to try to isolate herself at a time when she really needs to depend on others.
Marlene: I agree with you about that promise. Those sorts of things ALWAYS come back to haunt. There is definitely a snake in the ectoplasmic grass (so to speak) who is going to bite Zach (and probably Clare and Enzo as well) in the ass at the worst possible time and in the worst possible way.
It is Clare’s way to isolate herself. Also Zach’s. Having the same bad habits can be as binding in a relationship as having the same good ones. (Been there, done that). Clare’s whole universe has been thrown on its ear – she has to depend on others and she doesn’t have much foundation to build on there. Zach is the same, but it manifests differently. Also, because Zach’s difficulty is physical and obvious, it is a bit easier to deal with, if only a bit. But still, the things that have brought them together have also completely upset both their worlds, and while a lot of it is good and the outcome of some it will depend on what they make of it, there is also plenty of bad stuff to deal with into the bargain.
Starting with this case. Or cases. Or unholy mess.
E: This was a mess! Zach was involved in a case which pushed so many of his protective buttons and his old senses as a cop kept him thinking hope was minimal. Then he was struggling with the search to find a way to heal Clare when no one could give him a concrete solution. Add in Clare’s need to heal herself, not feel dependent, not let others down (always responsible), and to find a ghost who really doesn’t want to be found and this book had so many different emotional aspects. I was especially struck by how much self awareness and understanding was required to survive everything Owens threw at her characters.
Marlene: This case really upped the stakes in so many different directions. So much of it was heartbreaking. While Zach’s instincts made him fear the worst, what finally happened was still plenty bad. It was a case where even the good ending had an awful lot of bitter mixed with the sweet. At the same time, it was a case that required both of their talents used to the fullest. Zach needed Clare’s ghost seeing ability to solve the real-world aspects of the case, and Clare needed Zach’s police work to find the ghost. In spite of everything going on, they managed to work together extremely well.
That Clare’s search for a good ghost to heal her turned out to be tied into Zach’s case wasn’t unexpected, but the way that everything worked together packed an emotional punch. At the same time, while they worked together well on a professional level, we could still see them figuring out where they stand as a couple. Those issues also required a lot of self awareness, and a whole bunch of compromise. But I love the way we see them working things out.
E: I really enjoyed watching Clare and Zach work together. It is similar to how one of the characters raised the possibility that Clare and Zach were put in a certain position to make things right, almost like a set of chess pieces who still had elements of free will. Something else that didn’t quite sit comfortably with either one. Yet at the end despite the bitter-sweetness of solving Zach’s case and Clare’s healing along with the changes needed for Zach to consider growing roots they almost seemed at peace. I loved how a reminder of the peace and happiness from the “spiritual” climax of the story came back to their house with them.
Marlene: YESSSSS! I also love the way that Enzo is growing and changing right along with them. He is still, in so many ways, a big, shaggy, playful, albeit spiritual, dog. But he is also a spirit who is gaining in intelligence and power as the three of them form a tighter team. And relying on Enzo has made it easier for Clare and Zach both to learn to rely on others and each other. I love Enzo.
But speaking of the spiritual side of this story, one of the things that I really liked was the way that each of the ghosts saw heaven as they believed it to be. All belief systems seem to be equally valid. I personally found this concept to be both very inclusive and very cool.
E: So completely agree with all of those points. Enzo is fabulous and watching his development with growing independence/autonomy is always a delight. I personally would love to see him vanquish a certain dweller of the ectoplasm *narrows eyes*. I also really like how heaven or the next step was individual to each ghost depending on who they were and what they valued. I also enjoyed the variety of different reasons each had for staying anchored instead of always needing the agent of their death tracked down.
The Ghost Seer series continues to grow and so does my enjoyment. Ghost Maker was a complex layered story which delivered in suspense, character growth, and worldbuilding without seeming heavy handed or overblown. I remain hooked on it and Owens’ writing.
I give Ghost Maker an A-/B+
Marlene: This series just gets better and better. I’ve enjoyed every entry, but Ghost Maker had me completely enthralled from beginning to end. And ending which was both just right and came much too soon – I wasn’t ready to let go yet. Hopefully it won’t be too long before the next book in the series!
Owens is one of my auto-buy authors, and books like Ghost Maker are the reason. She has created a compelling world, or in this case offshoot of our world, and populates it with fascinating people while creating a marvelous romance – in this case a sustained one that continues to add depth with each entry.
And I absolutely adore Enzo!
I give Ghost Maker an A-