Strangely compelling fiction is just what the doctor ordered to fend off the February blahs.

Voodoo Shanghai: A Kincaid Strange Novel

Kristi Charish

Vintage Canada

Kincaid Strange is a completely different kind of private eye. She’s a gifted paranormal investigator whose underworld acquaintances include zombies, evil poltergeists, witches and friendly ghosts.

The heroine of two previous novels — The Voodoo Killings and Lipstick Voodoo — from Vancouver writer Kristi Charish, Strange shares her Seattle home with the ghost of a once-famous grunge rocker named Nathan, and works as a sort of freelance ghost whisperer. That is, when she’s not getting caught up in supernatural murder cases that tend to strike close to home.

As Voodoo Shanghai opens, it looks like a serial killer from her past is at it again, this time as a poltergeist who’s haunting a farm near Portland, Ore. Strange is reluctant to get involved, but when her cop ex-boyfriend, Aaron, who works the “afterlife beat,” heads to Portland to join the investigation, he persuades her to take the case.

The plot thickens when she meets a hunky Portland cop who’s hiding a personal connection to the crime scene, and a celebrity paranormal practitioner whose reality TV show rubs her the wrong way. A rash of disappearances from the local underground adds another twist, as does Strange’s new mentor, a long-dead and potentially dangerous sorcerer.

For a newcomer to the urban fantasy genre, it’s a fun surprise and a gripping mystery. Voodoo Shanghai was initially billed as the final instalment in the Kincaid Strange trilogy, but here’s hoping Charish isn’t ready to write her off just yet.

The author of another urban fantasy series, featuring dragons, vampires and a heroine named Owl, Charish has degrees in zoology, biochemistry and molecular biology.

Bloom

Kenneth Oppel

HarperCollins Canada

The first book in an action trilogy for ages 10-14, Bloom introduces a trio of West Coast teens who have to contend with acne, allergies and an alien invasion, all in the same month. The young protagonists live on Salt Spring Island, where mysterious little black plants start sprouting up after a rainstorm.

Soon, the invasive plants are spreading like weeds, and proving dangerous to people who come into contact with them and their toxic pollen. But for some reason, schoolmates Anaya, Petra and Seth seem to be immune. And they may even be gaining strange powers from the plants.

Once a West Coast kid himself, Oppel is the author of the Silverwing series for younger readers, as well as popular YA novels including The Nest and Inkling. The second book in the Bloom series is due this fall.

— Pat St. Germain

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