Series: GhostWriters Book 1
Published by DeathZone Books on April 15, 2017
Genres: Crime, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Ghost, Horror, Mystery, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Psychological Horror, Supernatural, Thriller
Buy on Amazon
On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.
Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.
Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.
As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.
CITY OF GHOSTS, by J.H. Moncrieff, is the first book in her “GhostWriters” series. I found this supernatural horror novel to be incredibly immersing in both the setting, and the charters (living and dead). We begin with a tour group on a sightseeing trip to China. The significance of this setting contributed greatly to my enjoyment of the novel–after all, placing us in the midst of a culture so different than our own adds an element of the “unexpected” that we might not have, otherwise.
“. . . What the Chinese call ghosts are more like demons to us . . . “
Jackson, a bored IT consultant, gets the idea to write a book about true hauntings. With this in mind, he hides away from the rest of his tour group in order to spend the night in the city of Hensu, a “ghost town” created a few years back when a dam was opened, completely flooding it. The atmosphere is disquieting right from the start. The Chinese had built statues of humans enduring tortures while having their souls judged after death.
“Was Hensu always this disturbing, or did they build this stuff after the place was abandoned . . . Like some Disneyland from hell?”
When Jackson is confronted by a cold, wet, shoeless Chinese girl, he invites her to sit by his campfire.
This is the true beginning of the tale.
I found that the characters Moncrieff chose for this novel were the perfect blend for a story of this type. Mostly flawed individuals, these people had the capacity to learn and progress as time went on. When you take into account that they are in a foreign land, this becomes especially important, as a character who is closed off to new experiences and “knows it all” would simply not work in this setting. The descriptions of the tour group as a whole were at times quite funny, on account of how well I could picture them in real life. The author nailed the “group dynamics”, with examples of the women who are quick to pass judgment on all other women, the man (or woman) that studies every aspect of the tour BEFORE it commences, and those that merely “do their own thing” as the drama of their everyday lives has made them habitually stand apart from others.
The first half or so of the novel is spent mainly in getting to know our main characters, and setting the stage for the supernatural mystery that Jackson has unwittingly volunteered himself to reveal. After the woman he met in Hensu begins appearing to him all over China, Jackson is forced to reassess his initial skepticism and must open himself up to the new reality confronting him.
“. . . Denial is a powerful thing. It’s funny what people will attempt to find rational explanations for . . . “
Kate, a woman with secrets of her own, is the first to understand the seriousness of Jackson’s situation, and the two join forces eventually.
“. . . When we die, something leaves–breaks off. . . the spirits who stick around? They’re not the people they were when they were alive.”
The political differences–not only between China and North America–but also between the different “sections” or cities in China, was simply astonishing to me. The Country and cities visited were so expertly described that I felt almost as though I were there, myself. These differences added substantially to the fear factor, as they also posed a direct threat to our characters, in addition to the mission that they realize they must accomplish.
” . . . Ghost stories aren’t fun when they’re true.”
Overall, an outstanding supernatural tale with great characters, excellent atmosphere/location, violence, fear, and death. With everything I love in a horror novel present, my only complaint was that it ended . . .
Luckily, Book 2 in the “GhostWriters” series (THE GIRL WHO TALKS TO GHOSTS) is now out.