Unholy Magic (Chess Putnam series: Downside Ghosts, Book 2)

Unholy Magic  - Stacia Kane

Chess Putnam is assigned another case to debunk, this time at the home of a famous actor and his wife. Before taking on that case, she is almost fatally poisoned after following up on a routine assignment to take down a con psychic. Meanwhile, someone is also killing prostitutes in Downside, putting Chess in the middle of the two men in her life, Terrible and Lex as Bump and Slobag both expect her help as it’s believed a ghost is involved.


Chess is a Church witch and is a debunker by profession. The Church will provide monetary compensation to any families who are proven to be put upon by a ghost. The reason they’re willing to pay money is because they have established themselves as the ultimate authority and manager of the ghosts. This also helps diffuse any challenges to that authority.


As if Chess doesn’t have enough challenges, these three situations create some real issues for her as Terrible still doesn’t know about her relationship with Lex, nor is the Church aware of her serious drug addiction. It figures that Chess is a loner with so many secrets she has to juggle but her developing relationship with Terrible puts her at odds with her normal way of handling life. And, it is forcing her demons even more to the forefront as she is beginning to have someone in her life for the first time that only wants her and her alone. It’s frightening and Chess is pulled to do what she does best…run, either to more drugs or to someone who will help take her mind away from confronting what needs to be dealt with.


The cases in this story were extremely exciting and challenging. Chess isn’t certain what she’s up against, ghosts or human trickery given that she’s dealing with Hollywood people who have the ability to pull off something like this quite easily. It continues to amaze me as to how high functioning Chess is while under the influence of drugs continuously. She’s also taking some risks in having a debunking client discover her addiction and she runs into some issues with this case.I wondered after the first book what continues to draw me into this series. I find the dynamics of the relationships fascinating as the early stereotypes no longer fit. Terrible is incredibly complex, Lex is truly an enigma and Chess, while tragic, has many admirable qualities and skills. I want to dislike Lex but he continues to do things that won’t allow me to hate him. I see the possibilities for Chess and Terrible but her history almost guarantees sabotage at every juncture. And, I do see Chess being pushed into facing her demons at some point as these relationships take her out of her norms.


Then there’s the excitement of the ghosts that create the story challenges. They aren’t anything like the ghosts I’m accustomed to reading about and their behaviors aren’t predictable as the cataclysmic event that created their situation is extraordinary. I enjoy following Chess’ journeys to outthink and outsmart them, even when they’re getting the best of her at times. I don’t trust that Kane won’t take risks that may leave me unhappy so the tension level is pretty high.


This unique fusion of urban fantasy and the human condition borders on brilliance when I give myself time to think about what’s truly going on with the relationships. The end of this story broke my heart as there is an awful scene involving Chess and Terrible that wasn’t resolved. It has me diving right into the next book, as it should. I am hopelessly hooked.