Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by J.L. Murray

Niki Slobodian, #1

“It’s not like the movies, where they don’t know they’re dead. They don’t often haunt people or places for revenge, and as far as I know they don’t befriend lonely children. Usually. If you could see them, you might not even know them from some of the living. Empty-eyed and looking around at the world like they can’t believe it’s all still there and going on without them. Or maybe they’re seeing it for the first time. This city is full of ghosts. I can see them all. Lucky me.”

Niki Slobodian sees things – things that aren't supposed to be there. Labeled an Abnormal by New Government, her name is tacked onto the Registry, which seems to be getting longer these days. Now she can't work or she'll end up the same place as her father: in prison. But with no money coming in, Niki's getting desperate.

So when a mysterious client offers to get her off the Registry in exchange for taking his case, Niki jumps at the chance. All she has to do is round up a homicidal Dark that's escaped from Hell and is cruising around the city in borrowed bodies. The murders are piling up, with Niki's notorious father somehow involved, and Niki's running out of time. And it seems the Dark isn't the only thing that escaped...

Surprisingly fun! Niki Slambodian is a detective of sorts who has just received a second chance – her name off the blacklisted registry, a new employer who pays big, and a chance to tie up loose ends about a mystery with her criminal father. Of course it’s all life and death while figuring out how capture a homicidal Dark that’s escaped from Hell and is tied in with her imprisoned father.

Being able to see ghosts is fascinating, but the book does little with this ability. The ghosts can’t communicate with actual conversation, but more of a desperate groaning and reaching. If anything they seem to be an annoyance to Niki and she doesn’t come across particularly compassionate, although I guess you would get hardened over the situation eventually.

I don’t find Sam particularly fascinating yet, but he’s intriguing enough to exist as a mysterious boss and unknown paranormal. I loved the new partner she gets paired with, and Eli as the ex who is discovering new things about himself while finding out Niki’s secrets added another personal layer. Loved the ending with her father and their complicated relationship.

Pure Urban Fantasy because of the paranormal elements involved, it’s as much a detective story. Niki being a complex character with a strong history left to be discovered made her an interesting person to be in the head of, and the pacing of the short novel made it a quick read. The ending was a mega-battle that flowed well and wrapped up one creepy story, but left plenty more possibilities to come with future stories.