Series: Alex Craft #5
Published by Penguin Books on July 4th 2017
Genres: Urban Fantasy
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In the thrilling fifth book in the USA Today bestselling Alex Craft series, Alex comes face to face with the walking dead.
Grave witch Alex Craft is no stranger to the dead talking. She raises shades, works with ghosts, and is dating Death himself. But the dead walking? That’s not supposed to happen. And yet, reanimated corpses are committing crimes across Nekros City.
Alex’s investigation leads her deep into a web of sinister magic. When Briar Darque of the Magical Crimes Investigation Bureau gets involved, Alex finds herself with an unexpected ally of sorts. But as the dead continue to rise and wreak havoc on the living, can Alex get to the soul of the matter in time?
“I often discuss dead bodies with my best girl friends.” Briar looked like she might choke on her coffee I shrugged, “My best girl friends include a medical examiner, a prosecutor, and a grave witch.” And my best guy friends were a soul collector, and an assassin. We sure sounded like a morbid bunch, huh?
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Please be advised that this review may contain spoilers for those of you who have not read the rest of the series. So, go do that now. Go on! I will wait…
Alex Craft is a grave witch, meaning she can raise shades from the dead and ask them questions, which makes her an invaluable source to help the various law enforcement agencies, magical or otherwise, on certain cases. She also happens to be Fae and a planeweaver, two aspects of herself that she is slowly, but surely learning to navigate over the course of the series, in addition to running her own business, with her best friend Rianna, as a private investigator at Tongues for the Dead.
Grave Ransom hits the ground running and doesn’t ever really stop, when Alex sees a man walking down the street who definitely should not be up and moving considering that he is dead, she, as someone who knows a bit about the dead, feels compelled to go after him. When she realizes the soul in the body does not match the body in which it was walking around in she knows there is a big problem brewing and it is up to Alex to figure out who or what is doing it before the body count gets any higher.This sets up the central mystery of the story.
As always, Price does a great job in weaving a compelling plot to add to her rich, imaginative world. I have always liked Alex as a character. She is strong, independent, and her magic is constantly evolving, but the thing that sets her apart from a lot of similar characters out there is that her magic has a high price, and this, I believe keeps her character from becoming too powerful, at least in the mortal world. But, as much as she is magical she also struggles with very human problems, like where the relationship with her current boyfriend, who just happens to be a soul collector, stands, will she be able to make enough money to keep her business running and can she catch a killer in time to keep them arresting her for the crime or before she becomes the killer’s next victim?
Honestly, the only part I found the book a little bit lacking was in the romance department and really, I wasn’t overly disappointed since this is an Urban Fantasy novel and not a Romance novel. This is not to say there wasn’t some romance in the book, because there was. But I felt like in the past, with the exception of the last book, the series included more and she set up a beautiful love triangle in earlier books and I am not usually a fan of love triangles. But, even in the past books she never makes the romance the main focus, which is good because Alex definitely has other pressing matters, but something seems a bit different in these last two books and I can’t quite put my finger on it. Then again it has been awhile since I read the first three books, so maybe I am mis-remembering and it is time for a reread!
Overall, I am very happy for the return of Alex Craft. This book hit all the right buttons when it comes to mystery, suspense and, of course, magic. I highly recommend this book and the series to anyone fans of books with a tough as nails female protagonist, who has something just a bit more special about her, such as The Hollow Series, The Charley Davidson series and the Mercy Thompson series to name a few. So, what are you waiting for? Get to reading!
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Excerpt of Chapter One
The first time I realized I could feel corpses, I had nightmares for a week. I was a child at the time, so that was understandable. These days I was accustomed to the clammy reach of the grave that lifted from dead bodies. To the eerie feeling of my own innate magic responding and filling me with the unrequested knowledge of how recently the person died, their gender, and the approximate age they were at death. When I anticipated encountering a corpse, I tightened my mental shields and worked at keeping my magic at bay. Usually that was only necessary at places like graveyards, the morgue, and funeral homes—places one might expect to find a body.
I never expected to feel a corpse walking across the street in the middle of the Magic Quarter.
“Alex? I’ve lost you, haven’t I?” Tamara, one of my best friends and my current lunchmate, asked. She sighed, twisting in her seat to scan the sidewalk beyond the small outdoor sitting area of the café where we were eating. “Huh. Which one is he? I may be married and knocked up, but I know a good-looking man when I see one, and girl, I don’t see one. Who are you staring at?”
“That guy,” I said, nodding my head at a man in a brown suit crossing the street.
Tamara glanced at the squat, middle-aged man who was more than a little soft in the middle and then cocked an eyebrow at me. “I’ve seen what you have at home, so I take it this is business. Did you bring one of your cases to our lunch?”
I ignored the “at home” comment, as that situation was more than a little complicated, and shook my head. “My case docket is clear,” I said absently, and let my senses stretch. When I concentrated, I could feel grave essence reaching from corpses in my vicinity. All corpses. There were decades of dead and decaying rats in the sewer below the streets, and smaller creatures like insects that barely made a blip on my radar, but like called to like, and my magic zeroed in on the man.
“He’s dead,” I said, and even to me my voice sounded unsure.
Tamara blinked at me, likely waiting for me to reveal the joke. Instead I pushed out of my seat as the man turned up the street. Tamara grabbed my arm.
“I’m the lead medical examiner for Nekros City, and I can tell you with ninety-nine point nine percent certainty that the man walking down the street is very much alive.” She put extra emphasis on the word “walking,” and on any other day, I would have agreed with her.
My own eyes agreed with her. But my magic, that part of me that touched the grave, that could piece together shades from the memories left in every cell of a body, disagreed. That man, walking or not, was a corpse. Granted, he was a fresh one—the way he felt to my magic told me he couldn’t have been dead more than an hour. But he was dead.
So how the hell had he just walked into the Museum of Magic and the Arcane?
I dropped enough crumpled dollars on the table to cover my portion of the bill and tip before weaving around tables and out of the café seating. Behind me, Tamara grumbled under her breath, but after a moment I heard her chair slide back as she pushed away from the table. I didn’t wait for her to follow me out as I all but sprinted across the street to catch up with the walking corpse.
The museum’s wards tingled along my skin as I stepped through the threshold. I’d been inside the museum a few times, and the collection of rare and unusual artifacts from both pre- and post-awakening was impressive, but I was a sensitive, capable of sensing magic, and between all the security wards and the artifacts themselves, the museum tended to be overwhelming. Definitely migraine-inducing in large doses. I noted that the magic in the air was particularly biting today, like one of the security wards had recently been triggered. I sucked in an almost pained breath, trying to adjust to the sudden crush of magic all around me. The extra sting of the deployed ward didn’t help.
I should have walked the extra few steps to clear the entrance wards.