True story, I found myself making an impromptu trip to my local book seller and I knew I wanted a debut author, preferably female for my next read. I reached out to Twitter for recommendations but my trip was a short one and I didn't get a response fast enough, so I chose a book from the new release section only to find out the author of my chosen novel had suggested it. That novel was Jaime Lee Moyer's Delia's Shadow and I'm pleased to report that it was just what the doctor ordered. Fantasy is not a genre known for it's subtlety and Moyer's delicate and graceful tapestry of historical, romantic, and supernatural elements is as far from the blade wielding heroes, wizened mages, and fire breathing dragons that most associate with the genre as you can get, both in terms of subject and delivery. Even with ghosts and killers prowling the pages, Moyer delivers a subdued yet rousing tale about two people both haunted by their past drawn together to create a future. Moyer is definitely an author to watch.
Delia's Shadow is the story of Delia Martin, a school teacher who has fled from her home in San Francisco to New York because she sees ghosts everywhere in her home town. When one persistent ghost appears, silently entreating her to return home, Delia returns home and quickly realizes that this ghost is leading her to a confrontation with her killer, a man who has recently begun killing again. Terrified of both the killer, who has been drawn to her due to her connection to the detectives investigating his crimes and the growing intensity of the nameless ghost who has driven her home, Delia is determined to master her fear and help bring the killer to justice by any means. Finding herself drawn to the grief stricken detective in charge of the investigation, Delia may have found the love of her life, if he can outwit this killer before he or Delia become targets themselves.
Delia's Shadow has two main point of view characters, with Detective Gabe Ryan sharing duties with Delia. Both are well crafted and instantly sympathetic as Moyer shows how the killer's victims haunt them both, both in the figurative and literal sense. Both seem to be fairly rudderless in all aspects of their lives that are unrelated to the killings and Delia's ghosts but quickly find each other to be a healing and supportive influence. If you are afraid of the story becoming a bodice ripper, you can rest easy. The romance between the two is a allowed to simmer, as their are more pressing problems and by allowing things to smolder rather than spark, Moyer adds a real sense of authenticity to their relationship.
Which brings me to the mystery. Readers expecting something along the lines of a modern thriller will likely be disappointed. The thriller elements are present, but with the split focus, this is not as full as surprising reveals and reversals as the typical Patterson or Deaver novel. There are revelations a plenty, and though I managed to suss out a secret or two before the big reveal, it wasn't by many pages. Moyer lays the clues in plain view, and trust the readers to figure things out along with the characters. I actually enjoyed the feeling of being able to piece together the mystery rather than waiting on the big reveal at the end with no clear trail of clues.
Despite its relative brevity, clocking in at a little over three hundred pages and the tension of a serial killer who is ramping up in his grisly game of cat and mouse with the police, Delia's Shadow manages to maintain a precarious balance between allowing the romance between the two leads without losing the tension of the murder mystery that remains the center of the novel. The action was subdued in most cases, which gives the novel the feel of a period piece and plays in well with the elements of historical fiction throughout the novel.
All in all, Delia's Shadow is a promising debut and I'll look forward to seeing where Moyer takes these characters in the all but guaranteed continuation of the series. If you're in the mood for a fantasy novel that challenges your expectations of what the genre can be, Delia's Shadow may just be the book for you.