Stalk like an Egyptian ‘Weight of Souls’ by Bryony Pearce

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If I hadn’t gone to the launch event for Kim Curran’s ‘Control’ I would never have read this book. It was a double launch, and with two piles of books and two authors to walk past, I wasn’t going to only buy one was I? That would be rude.

Still, whilst the premise sounded interesting, I did rather think the book would end up dropping down the to-be-read pile, never to see the light of day. Why? Well, at the risk of sounding like an ageist sexist dinosaur, it looked a bit girly. Young female on cover…’most popular boy…worst enemy…school…truth or dare.’ Was this book really for me?

Then, as this was a launch the author did a reading. With chapter one Bryony Pearce blew me away. Firstly, she has an excellent reading voice. Put me in that position and I would have mumbled and slurred my words so badly, my car keys would be confiscated. Then there was the quality of Pearce’s writing. Gripping and exciting with a clear strong narrator. I wanted to know what happened next.

Taylor Oh is cursed. She sees dead people. Worse, they can see her. Only those with unfinished business remain in this world. Murder victims. It they touch Taylor they pass on a mark; an inky blot that will consume her unless she can pass it on to somebody else. That somebody else is the ghost’s killer.It’s a great premise backed up by some interesting Egyptian mythology that plagues Taylor’s family. Her mother had the same curse. When her arch-enemy turns up at school as a ghost Taylor must track down his killer. The only problem is he doesn’t know who it is. Justin is sure he wasn’t killed. Taylor has a limited time before the darkness comes to claim her. The race to find her enemy’s killer is on.

The story is well plotted and the characterisation very good. Taylor and the recently deceased Justin work very well together, and peculiarly, since one is a ghost, feel very believable. What I particularly liked is how Taylor is forced to withdraw from the real world in order to survive. Pearce handled it differently to most writers, who either conveniently ignore what might happen in real-life or approach it with bombast. Supernatural powers often take characters beyond the realms of the muggles in the story, and getting their homework done is rarely an issue.

With ghosts being barely discernible from the living. Taylor avoids going out. She doesn’t feel safe in a crowd. It only takes a reaching hand and her geas is renewed. So, if you are crossing London, hunting down wanted killers, how do you make sure your geography homework is handed in on time? How do you revise? Taylor’s curse makes her unpopular with parents and teachers alike. She is only trying to survive, but how do you explain to somebody that you see ghosts? Not a likely real-world scenario but Pearce deals with it in a real-world way. It gives the novel much of its strength and forms the spine of the relationship between Taylor and Justin. In life he was one of her tormentors but in death he finds new respect for the tenacious Taylor. In most books a relationship would ensue, but with one half of the pair dead and due to move onto the afterlife, how will the author handle the relationship?

The whodunnit thread of the book is a little thin. Not much detecting goes on in the novel, but the reveal is exciting, and leaves Taylor with an interesting moral dilemma. The Egyptian mythology dovetails well with the rest of the plot, and as the novel reaches its climax becomes downright spooky. Weight of Souls is a quality page turner with two strong central characters. It might not be my usual fare, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The book works on its own, but there is definitely room for a sequel or two. London based supernatural crime-solving is popular at the moment, and on the strength of this, Bryony Pearce could spearhead its march across our bookstores.

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