Lars Kelsen can see dead people, but author John A. Karr bumps things up a notch by making his main character a fully grown adult, already battered and bruised by the travails of life. Lars starts seeing these visions after his young son is murdered and now these lost souls are turning to him for justice. Lars used to be a crime reporter, but he gave it up to seek solace among the Outer Banks. He thought he could run from his ghostly encounters, but he’s wrong. He gets reeled back into journalism when Jeanette Broughton starts summoning him from beyond the grave.
Jeanette is the one gracing the book cover. It’s only fitting since she was an actress and knew how to capture an audience’s attention. She beckons the reader into Karr’s pages and doesn’t let go until the very end. The way her body is found is definitely unique, a fresh approach when it comes to the mystery genre. The military is practicing a fighter jet run. The pilot drops a bomb in a wildlife sanctuary and Jeanette’s corpse resurfaces out of a marshy swamp … on camera. First chapters don’t get better than that when it comes to hooking a reader from the get go. It’s crazy. It’s improbable. But it works.
And Lars is the perfect counterpoint to the woman he’s trying to avenge. They’re both disillusioned when it comes to marriage. Jeanette cheated on her husband with younger men. Lars hit the singles scene hard after his divorce. They’re both a little vain when it comes to their appearance. Jeanette was of Native American descent but chose to dye her hair blonde. Lars enjoys the compliments he receives from the ladies and makes sure to keep in shape by jogging with his dog. They’re both thrill seekers seeking danger. Jeanette liked to race speedboats and ride ATVs. Lars jumps off a bridge trying to get away from someone trying to shoot him on a motorcycle. If things had turned out differently, they would have made the perfect pair.
Karr is adept at in-depth characterization even down to the supporting cast. The players are three-dimensional. They’re not flat or cookie-cutter. The back story of the pilot, Darius Williams, is compelling and the description of where he lives really paints a clear picture of what he’s all about. Even the playful back and forth banter with Lily, his next door neighbor is fully fleshed out. She only has a few lines of dialogue but from them the reader can discern she’s a Latina who’s fed up with her husband. She likes to flirt with Lars, but probably wouldn’t go any farther with him because she respects his dog too much. Then there’s Ethan Crull, the surfer slash lifeguard slash stereo installer. He’s a wise guy punk whose hostile exchanges with Lars really jump off the page. He doesn’t care about anyone except himself and Karr does a great job in illustrating that.
Overall, Lars Kelsen is multi-faceted. He’s a thug, a heartthrob, an action hero, a ghost whisperer. He’s a sleuth readers will enjoy getting to know if Karr decides to make the character into a series. There are a lot of areas still left to explore when it comes to the demons Lars is facing over his son’s death. Although, Lars doesn’t enjoy his ghostly visitors, Karr’s readers sure do. Hopefully, there will be more of them.