James, Marcus. “Ghosts of Blood and Bone”, Midnight Choir Press, 2019.
Let me get one thing out-of-the-way at the get-go. Marcus James is an excellent writer who always manages to have good stories to relate. I have read and reviewed
several of his books and the only problem that I have is that when I finish, I have to wait for the next one to be published. What makes this even more interesting is that I am, by and large, not a fan of slasher and/or horror fiction (unless it has been written by Marcus James).
“Ghosts of Blood and Bone” is a big book coming in at 500 plus pages but you will not have one boring moment reading it. In fact, I recommend that you clear your day before you begin reading because once you begin it, you will not want to stop. I kept saying to myself, “just one more page” but I ended up reading all night long and part of the next morning. It’s about keeping secrets and that is a tantalizing topic. It is also about trauma, love, and the loss of innocence.
Bailey Nguyen has been dead for nine-and-a-half years, and yet, memories are everywhere and it is impossible not to think about him. Chase Sheppard was Bailey’s best friend, even with the sense of mystery in Bailey that was always present. Whatever it was, it was dark and sadistic and seemed to be responsible for his being not just the middle school bully but it also aroused fear in Chance who suspected what Bailey was capable of.
We meet Aaron Christopher, a schoolmate who was unpopular and insecure. Christopher had no friends and was effeminate thus making him the perfect target for a bully. Yet there was something about Aaron that fascinated Chase. For Bailey it was the opposite—he hated Aaron and he was fixated with doing him harm. This led to lead to a terrible accident that involved Bailey, Chance and Aaron and a bathroom that only Aaron would walk out of alive. Now almost ten years later, Aaron has been unable to move on from that day, and everything that preceded it. He has tried but to no avail. Now, he is a senior at Fairhaven University in Bellingham, Washington and a budding artist. He has tried to lead a “normal” (whatever that means) life for himself. He has been able to make friends, spend time with his roommates and use his coping mechanisms to deal with the death of Bailey who, it seems, will not let go. Something is being orchestrated by some great diabolical force that brings Aaron and Chase together and those amorous feelings that they suppressed are once again with them like they were when they were kids and are every bit as strong.
Whatever attracted them about each other in the past (even though they did not act on it), is again pulling at them now. Aaron is taunted by phone calls from someone who sounds like Bailey (interesting that he can still hear Bailey’s voice) and a mysterious shape stalks him wherever he goes. It seems to have come out from the shadows of that past and refuses to stay dead and buried like Bailey. To say any more about the plot is not fair to any of you but I will say that the novel spans both a year of horror and darkness and a year of hope and redemption. It is how we get from one to the other that is so fascinating and to do so through lyrical prose is a great bonus.