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Killer Karma
Lee Killough
Meisha Merlin, 304 pages

Killer Karma
Lee Killough
Lee Killough deals with non-human species every day in her day job radiographing animals in the Kansas State University Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. But she really began writing SF to make sure she never ran out of science fiction to read. And because the mystery section adjoined the SF section, leading her to discover mysteries about the same time as SF, her stories tended to combine SF with mystery. Lee lives and writes in Manhattan, Kansas.

ISFDB Bibliography
Lee Killough Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Sherwood Smith

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I have always been a sucker for a good ghost story. I also love mysteries. Finding the two combined was just about guaranteed culinary disaster as my dinner burned unnoticed on the stove while I stood with my nose in this book, a mixing spoon suspended in the air.

Elements of a good ghost story? Everyone has their own checklist, of course. I require two things: that the ghost doesn't have unlimited super-powers, and that I cannot predict what's going to happen. Lee Killough meets both these requirements with splendid skill.

"He found himself standing in a parking garage with no memory except of his murder."
Our ghost doesn't remember his name, where he is, where he was, how he got there. All he remembers is the pain. He can feel his own body -- there's no evidence of a bullet wound on his head -- but no one sees him or hears him. He's got his clothes on, but no ID, no money -- no cell phone. All he knows is that he was murdered, and he feels a driving sense of urgency. Except if he has no material presence, how can he open a door to explore anywhere?

No more plot description here. I don't want to spoil the reader's fun of discovering the mystery along with the protagonist. Step by step he figures out how to maneuver in this twilight world, as he acquires piece after painful piece of his former existence. And how it ended. His wife, kids, best friend, enemies, all are vividly presented. The bad guys are believable. Everyone has a motive, and motivation -- there are no cardboard characters, no easy answers in this tightly written, vivid occult police procedural. Especially fascinating are the details of ghostly existence; in uncovering them for our protagonist, Killough applies the remorseless demand for detail that is a hallmark of police procedurals.

Killough keeps the action driving forward, but does not neglect character development. We get to know our protagonist's loved ones, and to care about them. We begin to understand why the antagonists do what they do. Will there be any justice? Will anyone find out what happened to him, or will they believe the false report circulating? And if they do find out, what then? Killough does not give us easy answers. The climax of Killer Karma is a marvelous crescendo, both complex and poignant.

Copyright © 2005 Sherwood Smith

Sherwood Smith is a writer by vocation and reader by avocation. Her webpage is at www.sff.net/people/sherwood/.


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