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Although the world is moving towards equality in the workplace, when you're fighting the supernatural, it seems to help to be a man. Jim Butcher's "Changes: The Dresden Files" features Harry Dresden, professional wizard and general smart ass and the exorcist of "Thicker Than Water" by Mike Carey is also male. Admittedly, Lynda La Plante's D. C. I. Jane Tennison is a great female lead, but she's more on the everyday end of investigation. But now, M. L. N. Hanover brings us Jayné Heller, who proves that fighting demons and the like isn't just a man's job.
In ''Unclean Spirits'', Jayné Heller has recently been informed of her uncle's death and, as her uncle was estranged from his whole family apart from her, she flies to Denver to sort out his affairs. What Jayné doesn't realise is that her uncle Eric was not only very rich, but had gained his wealth fighting ''riders'', demonic forces that take over people's bodies and control them. Speaking to a friend of her uncle's who turns out to be a vampire, Jayné comes to believe that her uncle was murdered by an organisation known as the Invisible College and sets out to avenge his death.
Reading the cover blurb, I thought I'd struggle with ''Unclean Spirits'' as the main female character suggested it would be aimed more at the ''Twilight'' market. But the opening line; ''It was raining in Denver the night Eric Heller died.'', whilst not seeming like much, suggested a slightly darker tone than I'd anticipated. Admittedly, this noirish feel doesn't last throughout the whole book, but those early lines helped strip away my pre-conceived ideas and help me enjoy the book more fully.
Enjoy it I did, as ''Unclean Spirits'' turns out to be a highly enjoyable fast paced thriller. Admittedly, it wasn't wildly original for someone who has read much in the supernatural investigations genre, but there were moments I found myself caught up in the action and wanting Jayné and her team to come out of it well. Part of the reason for this is how well Jayné was written. As a college dropout with few friends and no family support, suddenly being thrust into this strange world puts her off balance and that helped endear her to me. It also made for a perfect opening to a series of books as there was much that both Jayné and the reader needed explaining to them and this helped catch everyone up to speed.
There were points at which even Jayné didn't know what to expect and this helped me come to like her. In the early pages, her instinctive reaction to being attacked had nothing to do with her instincts and was a great piece of writing, which I thoroughly enjoyed. That situation didn't repeat, but it serves to show the reader that the unexpected is always an option and left the whole novel open to anything, which is my favourite kind of plotting. Jayné has been given a pretty rough break in life and it seems the world has more curveballs for her, so that just when she's starting to get a handle on her situation, something else crops up. It hardly seems fair on her, but it made me feel more sympathy for her.
There were a couple of things that I didn't enjoy quite so much. Although the book didn't appeal to the ''Twilight'' audience as much as I expected, there were a couple of nods towards Jayné being your average young lady, such as the relationship between her and Aubrey and when she found a way to spend some of her inheritance at the mall. The first of these moments was a touch predictable, although what happened afterwards was admirably less so and the second just a touch unnecessary and they took the edge of both story and pacing. Fortunately, these moments were rare and the bulk of the novel concentrated on the plot.
Ultimately, ''Unclean Spirits'' beautifully fills the middle ground between the ''red and black'' genre typified by the ''Twilight'' series and the likes of Jim Butcher's ''Dresden Files''. There is the strong female character that readers of the former may enjoy, mixed up with a little romance, but all the action and flashes of the humour of the latter. For fans of either genre, this is certainly worth a look, especially with prices as low as 84 pence plus postage from the Amazon Marketplace for a used copy.
This is a slightly amended version of a review that originally appeared under my name at www.thebookbag.co.uk