Ghosts & Echoes by Lyn Benedict

Ghosts & Echoes
Lyn Benedict

I’d read Sins & Shadows about a year and a half ago ( and have been meaning to read the second book, Ghosts & Echoes for a while, but didn’t get around to it until the recent Border’s bookstore closings where I picked up a copy. This is the rare urban fantasy where the POV was not in first person, but in third!


The Premise: Sylvie Lightner is worn out after what happened in Chicago recently, and she’s taken a long vacation, but she’s back in Miami now and back to work. Unfortunately for her, her desire to take on an easy case, one without complications and potential heartache is thwarted by two new clients. One says he is possessed by a ghost, and the other what’s Sylvie to catch a band of thieves. Both cases are more closely linked to Sylvie than she is happy with.
Read an excerpt of Chapter 1 of Ghosts & Echoes here
My Thoughts: This is an urban fantasy series with a very human heroine. Human but for a special ancestor, which leaves Sylvie with a secret voice in her head that tells her what to do to survive. Otherwise, she is normal, and has to use human means to track down problems in the Magicus Mundi, the supernatural world that most people don’t know exists. She is the one people come to if they want strange problems solved. It’s a very specialized P.I. service, and one that barely covers the bills, but Sylvie knows a lot about the dark magics and woo-woo that exists in the world. Due to this expertise, she gets two new cases that no one else would be able to figure out. Adam Wright, a Chicago beat cop finds Sylvie through a dream – he has a ghost inside him and wants the ghost out. The other case is a series of robberies, where the thieves seem to be able to walk through walls and doors. Sylvie uses a mix of legwork and special contacts (mixed with a bit of threatening) to solve these cases.

In the first book, Sylvie struck me as an angry heroine. There are reasons for this – it’s because of what was happening around her, and because of her own particular genetic legacy. In Sins & Shadows, this worked for me within the story and I wondered how Sylvie would grow over the series. In Ghosts & Echoes, this anger is still there, and yes, it still works when her anger is due to her frustrations in being one step behind in stopping the evil around her, but there were times when her attitude rubbed me the wrong way (and more than it did in the first book). I’d noted before that Sylvie is perfectly willing to be rude for someone’s own good (like preventing her assistant from being in danger), but maybe in her home territory, I wasn’t expecting her to be like this to everyone. I do think that she tries to hold herself back, but when she is pressed for time, she doesn’t have the patience for niceties. Somehow her lack of empathy towards people who weren’t her friends and family felt more pronounced in this installment, and I found it more difficult to empathize with her.
This darkness extends to Sylvie’s cases. Both of them turn out to be related to her personally. The ghost that is possessing her client is someone Sylvie knows. One of the thieves that are robbing local stores is someone Sylvie knows. Her moral dilemma here is who deserves her loyalty more – the people that she loves, or her clients who need her help. Her choices aren’t easy. There was a balancing game, and I think that the consequences reflect real life: it never goes as planned. There is definitely a high amount of emotional charge in this story because of Sylvie’s conflict and the personal slant of her cases. I really identified with Sylvie’s frustration in dealing with the people involved. This is all good, I want to be involved in the characters lives and to be emotionally connected.
The problem I had with Ghosts & Echoes is that I was ultimately unhappy with how dark it became, which is a very personal reaction. I understood what Sylvie was trying to do and from a logical point of view, I’m not really sure how she could have changed how things turned out, but from a visceral point of view, I like to end a story feeling like although there is bad, the good outweighs it, and in Ghosts & Echoes I’m not sure I liked where the scales stopped. There was a resolution and I’m sure it’s a resolution that worked for many readers, if not most, but I was left feeling unsettled.
Overall: A really well-written and gritty urban fantasy. I recommend this series for UF fans who want a realistic story and don’t mind a flawed and abrasive heroine. I would put this book in the “like” column for the writing and world building alone, but my emotional reaction to the overall plot (more bitter than sweet for me) puts it in the “OK” column. I’m wavering between my heart and mind on how to rate the book.
I want to know what happens next to Sylvie, but I’d be reluctant to read Book 3 if I find out that the story continues to be this disconcerting.  A review on Amazon suggests that there is a third book coming out but I haven’t seen any news about it’s title or publication date. Thanks to Scooper, I learned the third book is Gods & Monsters, out next month.
Buy: Amazon | Powell’s | The Book Depository
Other reviews:
Literary Escapism – positive
Fantasy Literature – 5/5

Sins & Shadows by Lyn Benedict

I can’t remember how I first heard of this book, but after getting a used copy, it stayed on my TBR pile until I saw a review at mardelwanda‘s livejournal. Mardel said of the main character, Sylvie: “She’s kind of mean, kind of angry.  But I actually enjoyed reading her angry sarcastic comments.  She’s just so damned mad and tough she doesn’t care who she’s mouthing off too, a god, an erinyes, witch, whoever.  You get the feeling, from hints, that she’s killed a lot of….beings.”

So I was intrigued. A pissed off character. It can go either way. I mean, a character that rubs you the wrong way can make or break a book for the reader, if they’re just jerks, that’s no good, but if there’s depth and development to them and it gets really interesting.

The Premise: Sylvie Lightener is a a private investigator specializing in paranormal cases. She’s been through a lot, including the recent killing of one of her employees, and in an effort to protect the people around her, she’s closing up shop. Just as she does, one last customer comes in.  This man tells her:  “My name is Kevin Dunne. I am the god of Justice. And I need your help.”  He wants Sylvie to find his missing lover, who he can’t find anywhere, but he knows that he is still alive. Since Sylvie isn’t really allowed to say no, she flies to Chicago to investigate.

This is the first in a new series called Shadows Inquires. Lyn Benedict also writes as Lane Robins (Maledicte – which I haven’t read)

My Thoughts: I thought Sins & Shadows was well-written. Good sense of place (Chicago), characters with depth, and good pacing. I’ve seen reviews who disagreed about the pacing, but for me I just picked it up to read the first chapter and then it was 2 hours later and I’d read 150 pages.  It starts out as a mystery, but turns into much more. I think my favorite part was anything to do with the gods and how they worked. Actually, how magic worked. This book had some really interesting ideas that sort of made me go, “Ohhh. Cool.” because it made sense and things fit together. Most of it was about the Greek gods, but the Christian god fits into it as well, and the way Benedict brings in well-known characters associated with the deities (such as the Furies and others) was really nicely done.

The big make-it-or-break-it part of the book is definitely (as you’d guess from what I’d said about pissed off characters) Sylvie. You know how it can be really annoying when the main character is the type who just doesn’t know when to shut up? It’s a really close line here. I can see people finding Sylvie abrasive, but for me, these moments came in spurts (the more danger she’s in, the worse she is). She starts off mean to her loyal employee Alex, trying to get Alex to stay away from the job in an effort to protect her, but then after that Sylvie didn’t really seem that bad until much later on. It actually seems to work with the plot, which I was a little impressed by.  There is an angry voice inside her which she hears, and I was beginning to wonder if that had deeper implications, but you have to read the whole book to see what I’m talking about. Sylvie is a dark heroine, one who is flawed in a way where I disagreed with what she was doing and saying. She’s very motivated by revenge. It clouds her judgement where others look at her in dismay but she refuses to budge in her thinking. Yet this works because she has to deal with the consequences of this, and I want to know if she can redeem herself or not. It’s truly a toss-up, because all through this book, she hasn’t done enough assure me that she can change. It makes me really want to read the next book though and find out. Weird, huh?

One issue I had with the book would probably be that I kept getting the sense that I was reading the second book of a series rather than the first. The first chapter throws you in midstream with Sylvie closing up shop and you don’t really find out why until much later. Then there’s Sylvie and Alex’s shared back story which sounds substantial but only piece together bit and pieces of it.   And there’s Sylvie’s relationship with ISI agent Michael Demalion and other hints dropped here and there about Sylvie’s past. I wanted to know more information but because it wasn’t directly related to the current action, it wasn’t forthcoming. I hope this is remedied in later books.

Overall: Has a pissed off main character, so avoid if you hate that, but I think there’s so much potential there for character growth, and I’m so interested in what the author did here that I’m  looking forward to the next book. (So I guess I kinda liked it).

Other reviews (a mixed bag):
Calico-reaction – rated it “give it away”
Mardelwanda – liked reading the book
Fantasy debut – a neutral review I think..

Buy: Amazon | B&N