Book Review: Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett

Posted January 6, 2017 by Kathy Davie in Book Reviews / 2 Comments

Book Review: Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett

I received this book for free from the library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Grave Phantoms by Jenn Bennett
Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance
Published by Berkley Sensation on May 5, 2015
Pages: 320
Format: eBook
Source: the library

Buy on Amazon
Also by this author: Bitter Spirits, Grim Shadows, Banishing the Dark

Third in the Roaring Twenties historical paranormal romance series and revolving around the Magnusson family in San Francisco. The couple focus is on Astrid and Bo.

My Take

Bennet does a nice job of making me feel like I’m in the 1920s, and the interaction between Astrid and Bo is sweet as is Aida and Hadley’s support, but…

…the primary conflict in Grave Phantoms is the anti-miscegenation laws that forbid Astrid and Bo from even thinking of having a relationship. That it’s totally illegal for a white person to have a relationship with a non-white person. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

My one problem with this conflict is that while Bennett says it’s a problem, it doesn’t show up in the action as a problem. There’s no actual conflict. Just a lot of talk, talk, talk about how awful it is that each loves the other…and…sob…they can never be together. Part of me wanted to smack ’em and tell ’em to move to some place where they can be together.

It’s but one part of the half-measures that abound throughout Grave Phantoms. I did enjoy reading this, but Bennett never really commits to emotion or danger. The whole scene with the bad guys indicating that she might survive…that cliché no one ever actually believes…is undercut even more by the rest of the “conversation” amongst the pirates. The storm that never comes to anything. Their shared belief that Winter will be furious. Aida’s sickly condition that doesn’t go anywhere.

That initial conflict with Astrid raking Bo down for not taking time off from work seemed out of character for her.

Lol, sounds like Astrid and Bo visited their day’s version of the Mitchell Brothers. Hmmm, I wonder if she did use that mirror later…?

And from the epilogue, I suspect this is the end of the series, which is a bummer, as I have enjoyed the combination of bootlegging, archeology, and the 1920s.

The Story

It didn’t work. Going away to college was supposed to diminish the attraction feisty flapper Astrid Magnusson has for her brother’s second-in-command. But not even the threat of the incoming storm that is already flooding the piers can dampen Astrid’s hopes until the storm sends a mysterious yacht crashing into the Magnussons’ docks.

The Plumed Serpent disappeared a year ago, and the survivors who are staggering off seem more like zombies…leading to an encounter that impacts Bo and Astrid with the haunting visions she has about the yacht’s disappearance.

Danger that brings all of Bo’s protective instincts to the fore even as they plunge into an underground world of dark magic and Aztec ritual.

Danger that will drive them closer together, but the greater risk will be in surviving their own forbidden feelings.

The Characters

Astrid “Mui-mui” Magnusson is the youngest of the bootlegging Magnusson family and is on academic probation.

The twenty-one-year-old Yeung “Ah-Sing” Bo-sing is Winter’s captain.

Winter Magnusson is the oldest sibling and in charge of the family business, Magnusson Fish Company (during the day) which is based in San Francisco. He’s married to Aida who is a trance medium (Bitter Spirits, 1), and they have a daughter, Karin. Sam is their guard dog.

Professor Lowe Magnusson, a treasure hunter, is another brother who is married to Hadley, a museum curator at the de Young Museum (Grim Shadows, 2), and they have an adopted five-year-old daughter, the deaf Stella Goldberg. Number Five is Hadley’s cat. The Sheuts are Mori specters, shadowy hounds of hell, that show up when Hadley is upset.

Jonte is the family driver; Benita is the seamstress; and, Greta is the disapproving head housekeeper. Old Bertha is the stuffed shark mascot for the company.

The Gris-Gris Club, a black-and-tan joint, is owned by Velma Toussaint, a hoodoo and former dancer who inherited the club and is supplied by Winter. It features a house band and various stage acts. Daniels is the club manager; Hezekiah and Joe are bouncers. Leroy Garvey is a regular patron.

Dr. Maria Navarro and her colleague, Mathilda King, are experts on Aztec and Mayan culture and are referred to as the Wicked Wenches. The snotty and bigoted Mrs. Humphreys is one of their tenants; her husband is a state senator. Mr. Laroche is the elevator operator in the building. Hambry is the chief of police. Officer Barlow is a jerk. Nurse Dupree works at the hospital, as does Nurse Sue who does favors for Bo.

Ju Wong is a tong leader who owns a sewing factory and runs a house of prostitution. Sylvia Fong, a switchboard operator, once dated Bo…along with her twin sister, Amy. Andy Lee is their boss at the telephone office. Dr. Moon stitches up injuries for Asians who would not be accepted in a hospital; Le-Ann is his wife. Mr. Han is interested in Bo coming in with his fishing company. Mrs. Lin owns a restaurant.

KPO Radio is a National Broadcasting Club affiliate radio station located in the Hale Brothers department store building. Girl Friday is a half-hour program for women in San Francisco.

The Plumed Serpent is…
…a yacht that disappeared a year ago. Mrs. Cushing is the owner. Mary Richards was her missing maid. Dan is Mrs. Cushing’s houseboy. Little Mike has a part-time job as a guard. Marty Haig had been the boat’s captain.

Max Nance, a.k.a., Kit Manson, is colleagues with Bechard, and Jean Fleury, a French privateer; they serve the Sibyl. Babel’s Tower is a dance hall on Terrific Street where the Pieces of Eight meet. Mad Hammett is in charge of the dancers, of whom Bebe is one.

UCLA is…
…where Astrid is attending college. Jane is her dorm mate. Professor Luke Barnes is a predator.

A black-and-tan club means societal restrictions are ignored. A huli jing is a fox spirit. Mary is one of Astrid’s friends. Mrs. Bacall is a curator who knows all about Egyptian funerary customs.

The Cover and Title

The cover is a contrast in brights and subdued colors against a bright deep blue night sky with a ghostly wisp of red emerging from Chinatown in the background and wending its way across the street and around Astrid and Bo. The blonde Astrid has a turquoise feathered band encircling her head and wears a deep teal sleeveless flapper dress while pressed up against a very dapper Bo in his patterned vest, white shirt with tie, and dress pants and who has his arms around her. The title is in a Deco-like font in red with a stylized gray iris slanting down between the title and the series information. The author’s name is in white at the bottom.

The title is Astrid’s nemeses, the Grave Phantoms targeting her aura.

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