Tor Books (US, 5th Mar 2013)
Paperback, 304 pages
Now that she’s solved her sister’s murder, Hallie Michaels has left the army and isn’t sure what to do next. Her relationship with deputy Boyd Davies is tentative, there’s still distance between her and her father, and she needs a job. The good news is, she hasn’t seen a ghost in weeks. All that changes when she gets a call asking her to help an elderly neighbor who is being stalked by black dogs, creatures from the underworld that are harbingers of death. When a black dog appears, Hallie learns, a reaper is sure to follow. And if the dark visions she’s suddenly receiving are any indication, it looks like the reaper is now following her.
Meanwhile, strange events herald the arrival of ghosts from Boyd’s past, ghosts the young deputy isn’t ready to face. Refusing Hallie’s help, Boyd takes off to deal with the problem on his own, only to find that he’s facing something much larger and more frightening than he’d imagined. Stalked by a reaper and plagued by dark visions, Hallie finds she must face her fears and travel into Death’s own realm to save those she most loves. (Goodreads)
Deep Down by Deborah Coates begins where Wide Open left off, with Hallie trying to settle back down into ranch life after the exciting supernatural events she’d rather forget.
Being able to see ghosts after her near-death in Afghanistan took its toll on our heroine in book one, and this sequel is no different. She is desperate to forget the paranormal goings on that turned her life upside down, but within the first few pages all her old fears are resurrected with a vengeance. After meeting with an elderly neighbour she is alerted to the presence of ghostly black dogs that few can see, known as harbingers of death. If you are able to see one of these creatures then your time on earth is almost up.
These dogs cannot enter the radius of her neighbour’s house, but when Hallie departs a dog begins to follow her instead. She questions it and is told that her time is already up, meaning she should have died in Afghanistan and not been resuscitated. This creates a whole new dilemma for Hallie, as does this mean that death is coming for her, or has she really succeeded in cheating death?
Further complications are caused when she stumbles upon a vehicle crash at an empty intersection. The car and the grain truck are both smashed up but there are no signs of life anywhere around, and no sign of either driver. There isn’t even any blood to suggest any casualties. Add to this the mysterious presence of two ghosts, one of which that appears more solid than usual, and Hallie is left with a large headache to sort out.
But there was no driver. No blood. No sign that anyone had been inside when the truck hit it. And maybe that was it. Maybe they’d seen it coming. But if that was the case, where were they?
Her personal life complicates matters further, as young deputy Boyd is determined for Hallie to keep her nose out of these affairs, trying to protect her at every opportunity. However, he also understands that her years in the army have hardened her and made her capable of taking on anything – he just wishes she didn’t have to.
This makes for an interesting dynamic in their relationship, as Boyd and Hallie are two completely different individuals in some respects, but in others they are incredibly similar. Hallie acknowledges this herself at several points in the book, which makes me wonder if this pairing will last the test of time or if they are simply too different. It doesn’t help that Boyd is absent for the most part of this novel as part of the plotline, but I won’t spoil where and why he goes.
Hallie is an incredibly headstrong protagonist, but is also smart and capable and it is a joy to read from her perspective. She has a very intricate way of deciphering the clues around her, and is also good at interacting with other characters in order to get the information that she needs. In this book I got more of a sense that the army had hardened her and made her need to seek out a purpose in life, which can be seen as the driving force of her actions throughout.
As for the plot, as with the first book the solution to the mystery is overtly paranormal. However, unlike the series debut I didn’t feel that it was over the top this time, and actually enjoyed how the story developed. The antagonist is evil and menacing and you’re never quite sure when he’s going to appear next or what he will do. Despite this intriguing plot, I would have liked a little more character development of Boyd, or of any of the other recurring characters in the novel. As much as Hallie can hold up a story all by herself, it would be nice to know a little more about the people she lives and interacts with.
I really enjoyed this sequel, and really feel that Hallie had developed as a character. I would have liked to have seen a little more interaction with Boyd, but considering the plotline this was understandable and will perhaps be expanded upon in future books. Another great paranormal mystery that will captivate you ‘til the last page.
BOOKS IN SERIES ORDER
- Wide Open
- Deep Down
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