Ghosts of Karnak by George Mann
Things are quiet in New York. Unusually quiet. Gabriel – the Ghost – knows that something’s wrong. There’s a heat wave building for a start, and it feels as if the pressure’s getting unbearable. Something’s going to give.
When an expedition returns from Cairo to exhibit their finds at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gabriel takes a keen interest. An old friend and lover – a girl called Ginny, who he hasn’t seen for over a year – was part of the expedition.
Something’s not right with Ginny, however, and not just the fact she’s still drinking… something happened to her in Cairo, out on the dig. Something that’s related to a strange cult known as The Circle of Thoth, a baboon with a clockwork eye, dust devils on Fifth Avenue, robed assassins, sacrificial rites, a ‘resurrection machine’ and a ghostly figure clad in trailing bandages, seen floating over the rooftops of the city.
Ancient forces are stirring, and the Ghost, Ginny and Gabriel’s friend Donovan are caught right in the middle…
The Ghost is back and, as usual, in the thick of it! Playboy Gabriel Cross takes to his alter ego, the crime-fighting vigilante with gusto. We get the sense that this is starting to take its toll on him as he spends most of this entry in poor physical condition with very little chance to recover from injury. It's no wonder he drinks and smokes heavily when off duty! This is of course set in an alternate Steampunk 1920s universe, so health, safety and longevity are not chief concerns.
Newbury and Hobbes author George Mann is clearly having a great time with his other creation here. Right from the start we are thrust into the mayhem of a rooftop battle in NYC. You can not accuse the Ghost novels of being dull. I thoroughly enjoyed the mixture of 1920s gangsters meeting the ancient mysticism of Egypt.
What I enjoy the most are the rich characters found within this story: Donovan, the tough, world-weary, rumpled city detective, his eager partner Mullins; Ginny, the icy blonde girlfriend of Cross. Astrid the stylish, beautiful, self-styled occult detective is great fun, and it was a shame that there was not more of her in this entry. Amaury, a mysterious and driven French archaeologist and Abbadeli, a dapper, charming, yet menacing mob boss round out the cast.
I thoroughly enjoyed the dialogue and the nuances the characters exhibit. Particularly a scene involving Donovan, Mullins and Abbadeli is intriguing as it delves into how the characters are feeling and just how important it is to 'put up a front' when living in this dangerous, unpredictable world. Touches like this make this more than just a formulaic hero romp. If the character interaction is a strong selling point for this latest adventure; its main flaw is that after setting all the Egyptian occultism up so well, the novel gets resolved a little too swiftly.
The universe Mann has created is great fun and there are going to be more Ghost adventures, I just hope we get more depth and detective work thrown into the mix of monsters and science fiction next time.
Daniel Cann, 7.5/10
It's the 1920's and the people are in a frenzy about Egypt again as an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is to be held after an expedition to Egypt had yielded so many interesting finds from a queen's tomb. Elsewhere, a young woman is found dead, ancient Egyptian runes carved into her body. Donovan is on the case, but are the two related?
While the Ghost is near executed by the Enforcer, who, he supposes has been sent by the local gangsters to try and have him killed, Gabriel is excited that he will see his girlfriend, Ginny again, but she never meets him at the train station and he begins to think she might have changed her mind about continuing their relationship. Ginny, it seems is a busy woman. She is in Egypt interested in seeing the Temple at Luxor; stuck in a bar that has no decent water. That is until a man helps her out with some of the bottled kind and they get into a conversation on archaeology as he's intrigued at what he'll find at the dig too.
In this new novel starring the Ghost, Gabriel and Donovan team up to find out the source of the Autumn Allen murder, and also why Ginny hadn't contacted him, or arranged to meet Gabriel when he thought she would. Like Bruce Wayne, Gabriel was a playboy type with unlimited cash who thought he might not have impressed Ginny as much as he'd hoped. He knows she is a hardy type who wouldn't let any man push her around, but that doesn't stop Gabriel worrying about her welfare. As far as he is aware, she is missing and has had Donovan file a missing person's report in the hopes of finding her alive.
Whatever is going on, there is a horrifying thought that all the clues lead to finding more than a coincidence as another body is found, that of a man who has a tattoo similar to that of Autumn, plus, Ginny has got herself into a spot of trouble with two strange fanatics who intend to raise an ancient goddess. Ghosts of Manhattan gave us the first glimpse of the Ghost and his friends, the mob and the evil ones who work within the shadows. Now, in Ghosts of Karnak, Mann takes us on the cultist route of brutal murder, ancient rites and the resurrection of old gods. Gabriel and Donovan have to find out where Ginny could be, and hope she's alright. I could imagine that Gabriel would be mortified as Mann has made it so obvious how much he loves her. When the mania surrounding Egypt had happened in the 1920s, Mann brings the spirit of the age back to us with the steampunk effects, futuristic villains and delving into almost Lovecraftian realms of evil, brutish possibility
Sandra Scholes, 8/10
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