Hungry Ghosts

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DAW, Feb 7, 2017 - Fiction - 288 pages
4 Reviews
Stephen Blackmoore's dark urban fantasy series follows necromancer Eric Carter through a world of vengeful gods and goddesses, mysterious murders, and restless ghosts.

Necromancer Eric Carter's problems keep getting bigger. Bad enough he's the unwilling husband to the patron saint of death, Santa Muerte, but now her ex, the Aztec King of the dead, Mictlantecuhtli, has come back -- and it turns out that Carter and he are swapping places. As Mictlantecuhtli breaks loose of his prison of jade, Carter is slowly turning to stone.

To make matters worse, both gods are trying to get Carter to assassinate the other. But only one of them can be telling him the truth and he can't trust either one. Carter's solution? Kill them both.

If he wants to get out of this situation with his soul intact, he'll have to go to Mictlan, the Aztec land of the dead, and take down a couple of death gods while facing down the worst trials the place has to offer him: his own sins.

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User Review  - sensitivemuse - LibraryThing

***spoilers ahead you have been warned*** Nooooooooooo this can’t be the ending of the series can it???!!! I’ve taken a liking to Eric Carter. He’s still has his anti hero jerk side, but in this book ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - PardaMustang - LibraryThing

**This book was reviewed via Netgalley** Hungry Ghosts is third in S Blackmoore's Eric Carter series. Our opening finds Eric cutting a swath through Mexico, looking for Tabitha, erstwhile ally ... Read full review

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About the author (2017)

Chapter 1

Sharpie magic is the best magic.

I stand on the side of the road, cool fall breeze blowing through the scrub brush. Half a dozen trucks pull out of a gated, hillside compound in the moonlight, kicking up dust and gravel. The men in the truck beds wear ballistic vests, skull-printed face masks, wicked looking guns clutched tight in their hands.

I wave as they go by, but they have no idea I''m here. I''ve got a "Hi My Name Is" sticker on my chest with the words "NO ESTOY AQUÍ" written in Sharpie and pumped with enough magic to keep me hidden from them. I didn''t need to write it in Spanish, the magic doesn''t work that way, but I''ve been speaking almost nothing but for the last two months, and it helps me focus.

They''re on their way down to a warehouse on the outskirts of Tepehuanes, Mexico, just down the road. It holds several thousand kilos of heroin in varying degrees of processing. It''s currently on fire.

I set the fire.

I don''t care about the heroin or the Sinaloa Cartel men entrusted with operating and guarding it. I just need them out of the compound. With them gone there should be about half a dozen men left inside. Plus the one I came to talk to.

The estate of Manuel Bustillo is fairly modest by narco standards. He''s not terribly important in the Sinaloa Cartel. Middleman stuff. Processes heroin, cocaine, meth. I hear he used to handle a lot of pot coming up from the south, but with medical marijuana in the U.S. getting so popular and so much weed being grown inside the states, the cartels have had a hard time moving product. Things are tough all over.

I''m not here because Bustillo is a Sinaloa man, or because he''s a murderer, thug and all around bad guy. I''ve hung out with worse people. Lately, I''ve been wondering if I might be worse people.

I don''t much care about Bustillo at all, actually. I''m here because he''s a stepping stone. A link in a chain. I''m looking for someone, and he''s going to help me find her.

I got his name from a guy in Hermosillo a couple weeks back. And I got that guy''s name from somebody in Ensenada, whose name I got in Tijuana. I found out about the Tijuana guy from somebody in San Diego, who I tracked down from a guy whose arms I broke in an alley behind a strip bar in Los Angeles.

It''s been a busy few months.

Bustillo''s house sits on ten acres of hilltop Durango real estate looking down on rocks and scrub brush. It''s surrounded by an electrified fence and a ten-foot-high, brick wall. Spanish Colonial. Terra cotta tile, fake adobe.

I sling my messenger bag over my shoulder, pick up my Benelli M4 twelve-gauge, and stroll unseen through the gate before the two men watching it shut it up tighter than a nun''s butthole.

The men in the courtyard have no idea I''m here, but once the gunfire starts--and boy howdy is there gonna be gunfire--the Sharpie magic''s going to be pretty useless. Them not seeing me depends on them believing they can''t see me. It''s hard to ignore a guy firing at you with a shotgun at the best of times.

I find a convenient spot out of the way and take a seat. The men walk the courtyard nervously fingering the triggers on their guns. A while later I check my pocket watch, an antique, railroad grade, 1911 Sangamo Special. Aside from being a nasty piece of magic that can twist time into ugly knots if you use it right, it''s a really good watch.

It''s been half an hour. That should give Bustillo''s men enough time to get down to the warehouse and out of my hair. I slide the watch into my coat pocket and pick up the Benelli.

"If it helps," I say, though I know the spell keeps them from hearing me, "this isn''t personal." I unload a couple of shells into the backs of their knees and they drop, screaming. If they get to a hospital soon they might not die. But if they do, well, them''s the breaks.

The front door to the main house is this massive oak monstrosity that looks like it was pulled from a cathedral. Religious carvings all over it. Lots of Virgin of Guadalupe stuff. Considering who I''m looking to find from Bustillo the irony is almost too much to bear.

I dig a couple more shells out of the messenger bag slung across my shoulder and load them into the shotgun. For backup I''ve got a variety of magical charms and a World War II era Browning Hi-Power, an ugly Nazi pistol with decades of evil energy baked into its frame. I can tap into that with my own magic and really fuck a guy up.

I''ve been watching Bustillo''s place for the last couple of weeks trying to figure out how to get close to him. He''s not the sort of person you just make an appointment with. Or someone who''s likely to tell you what you want to know.

I''ve kept a low profile, stayed hidden. It wasn''t until I saw a shipment to the warehouse come in on a couple of semis that I got the idea to set the place on fire.

I won''t have a lot of time before they get back, but it should be enough. At some point they''re just going to write the whole place off as a loss. Tepehuanes doesn''t exactly have a robust firefighting force. The warehouse is the most modern building in the whole town.

I give it less than an hour before they come gunning for me. They should already be getting frantic phone calls to come back. I need to get in, get my answers from Bustillo, and then get the hell out before thirty guys with AKs come busting in on the party.

I put the barrel of the Benelli against the door lock and pull the trigger, blowing a hole the size of a cantaloupe out of the wood. Sure, I could have just tried the handle, but where''s the fun in that? I wouldn''t get the satisfying shriek as buckshot tears into the poor bastard on the other side of the door. I step out of the way and let the inevitable rain of bullets punch through the wood in return.

The guy I shot through the door stares at me as I kick it open, the Sharpie spell too weak to hide me from him, anymore. The door was thick enough to stop a lot of the shot, but more than enough went through to make this a really bad day for him.

He points his gun at me in shaking hands. A crappy, little TEC-9--I didn''t think they made those anymore--and pulls the trigger on an empty chamber. I hit him in the head with the butt of the shotgun and he goes down like a drunk prom date.

There are a lot of ghosts here at the compound. Echoes in the courtyard, mindless recordings of people''s last moments. Every one of them an execution. Bullet to the head kind of stuff. All in nearly the same spot. They blend into each other like fractals, jerking this way and that as phantom bullets enter their heads over and over again. A few Haunts, too. Again, murders. Ghosts trapped in the house until their essence drains away to whatever afterlife they''re destined for.

And then there are the Wanderers, self-aware spirits borne of trauma and tragedy, but not locked to any particular location, they travel from place to place doing, well, whatever they do. Watching mostly, being hungry and looking for some shreds of life to feed on.

That''s the thing about ghosts. There''s not much going on in the land of the dead. Most can''t even see the living, just like most of the living can''t see them.

But they can sure as hell see me. I show up to them like a neon sign that says GOOD EATS. They want life. Any life. Lucky for all of us they''re on that side of the veil. So when I attract their attention they follow me around like hungry wolves after caribou.

Yay for necromancy, huh?

Counting the murdered in Mexico''s drug war is tough. Anywhere from fifty-thousand to over a hundred in the last five years alone. Not all of them leave ghosts. Not all of those ghosts become Wanderers.

But holy fuck are there a lot of them. I picked up a handful in El Zona Norte, Tijuana''s red light district. Murdered prostitutes and student protesters, low level cartel bagmen caught in a cross-fire, police officers, tourists, locals in the wrong place at the wrong time. In each city I''ve picked up more. Some of them I even killed myself. They''ve been trying to keep up as best they can. They''re not fast and I have a car, but they''re tenacious little bastards.

There are at least forty standing behind me, following me around as I shoot the place up. I''ve been seeing ghosts my entire life, so an audience of the dead is nothing new. But standing room only can get a little nerve wracking. I could push them away, but there are so many dead around more would just take their place.

The foyer is terra cotta red tile covered in rugs, wrought iron chandeliers. Real old school Spanish style. I hear two sets of running feet coming down the hallway. At this point, the Sharpie magic''s useless. I''ve made too much noise and the magic can only do so much. I take up a position on the edge of the doorway and wait.

Two men with AK-47s run into the foyer, see the guy

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