American Ghost by Paul Guernsey
Thumb Rivera is a small time drug dealer who makes the mistake of trying to get in league with the local biker gang, which ends badly for him. American Ghost follows his efforts to solve his own murder from the afterlife. Paul Guernsey’s third novel is basically a supernatural detective story with a heavy dose of dark Americana, featuring backwoods biker club houses, trailer meth labs and abandoned murder houses.
The story is structured in an interesting fashion, with Thumb’s spirit travelling through time and space, with no knowledge of how the afterlife works, this being revealed slowly to him via other trapped spirits he meets on the way, including the ghost of a man who died in a road accident, who now lingers in the spot he died. By and large Thumb has to observe how life moves on without him, but learns to communicate with two living people, a hapless ghost hunter and a pig farmer who is also a frustrated novelist, who provide a conduit to the land of the living.
The story is well constructed and keeps you engaged as the plot unfolds, as Thumb comes closer to discovering who killed him and why. The afterlife Guernsey constructs is fascinating, with it’s own internal logical and laws.
I’m not usually much of a fan of crime fiction, but this supernatural twist on the murder mystery made it much more enjoyable. If you fancy a haunting (in both senses of the word) mystery novel, then this is for you.
Paul Guernsey also edits The Ghost Story, which has much of interest to revivalists.
review by Scott Lyall