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Ghosts in the Snow
Tamara Siler Jones
Bantam Spectra, 496 pages

Art: Les Edwards
Ghosts in the Snow
Tamara Siler Jones
Tamara Siler Jones left her native Iowa to start her academic career as a Veterinary Medicine/Chemistry double major, but after a year, at Northeast Missouri State University. Some years later, she went back to school, as an Art major, and graduated with a degree in Graphic Design. She took a job in a small art studio doing brochures and logos and wrote the first draft of Ghosts in the Snow in her spare time. A couple of years later, her first novel is published.

Tamara Siler Jones Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Hank Luttrell

It is hard to know what is going to work to attract and entertain readers in any new fantasy book or series. Imitation is always tempting, so it won't surprise anyone to see lots of Harry Potterized adventures. Bantam Spectra must be confident in Tamara Siler Jones' new, innovative fantasy series, since a second book is already on deck, with a sample chapter offered in the back of Ghost in the Snow, Jones' first book.

Certainly this story had what it takes to tempt me to read it. A forensic medieval fantasy murder mystery. With ghosts. Now, why would I find that intriguing? I like forensic-centered murder mysteries. There was a time when I would have insisted that I preferred science fiction to fantasy, in fact I still say that, but lately I've found a certain comfortable, familiar enjoyment with those pseudo-medieval epics.

And ghosts? I try to act stable and remain sane, but I sort of believe in ghosts. Family members and close friends, loved ones, even pets -- when they pass away, they remain such a strong, important part of your life. I constantly recall things my grandparents told me, and it seems like they are still giving me advice. I can still hear my lost friends making jokes and criticizing my posture. What I'm trying to say is that ghosts are a powerful metaphor or element in storytelling. In this book, investigator Dubric Bryerly has been cursed with the ability to perceive ghosts of those people who are murdered on his watch until the killer is brought to justice. A great motivation for him to find their killers!

Jones brings some other strong dynamics into Ghost in the Snow. Magic of many sorts, not just ghosts, exists in this world. Most magic has been banished or minimized during conflicts which take place prior to the start of this story, but magical influences still lurk and threaten, and can't be dismissed. Normally, the scientific methodology of criminal forensic investigation would routinely eliminate "the impossible," supernatural explanations, but this investigator doesn't have this option.

This fantastic murder mystery is nonetheless a strictly constructed who-done-it; it plays by the rules. There are precious few clues, but all the information available to the characters is also available to the reader. The serial killer is revealed to be one of the characters upon whom suspicion should fall. That the author is so successful in misleading and surprising the reader is a major accomplishment.

My tolerance for gore in fiction is usually rather low. I've been told I'm just squeamish, but I must recall that I worked for many years in the emergency room of a large hospital, so I know what real gore is, and I don't like it. So maybe it should be surprising that I enjoy murder mysteries? What isn't surprising is that I'm usually partial to detective stories where the killings take place mostly off stage, and the story focuses on characters, locales and the investigation. Ghost in the Snow is visceral, with detailed description of the many gruesome murders and dismemberments. I did, in fact, find this distressing. It wasn't gratuitous, however, as it contributes to the book's compelling intensity.

Dubric Bryerly is an older guy, a veteran of the wars that diminished the evil affect of magic on his world, and head of security for his castle. His assistants range in age from very young to gristled. The victims are from the laboring young women of the castle's staff.

The diversity of this cast of characters is effective and appealing. Too many fantasy novels focus on only young, noble characters. Having an older, experienced hand in the mix is credible, and the detailed depictions of the working class commoners providing the day to day support for the castle's nobles is gritty and realistic.

So I suggest you remember these names: Tamara Siler Jones, and her character, psychic/forensic investigator Dubric Bryerly. I think we will be looking forward to hearing a lot more from both of them.

Copyright © 2004 Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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