Wide Open

Wide Open 
By Deborah Coates
Published on March 13, 2012
Published by Tor
Source: Finished copy from publisher

Summary from Goodreads:

When Sergeant Hallie Michaels comes back to South Dakota from Afghanistan on ten days' compassionate leave, her sister Dell's ghost is waiting at the airport to greet her.

The sheriff says that Dell's death was suicide, but Hallie doesn't believe it. Something happened or Dell's ghost wouldn't still be hanging around. Friends and family, mourning Dell's loss, think Hallie's letting her grief interfere with her judgment.  

The one person who seems willing to listen is the deputy sheriff, Boyd Davies, who shows up everywhere and helps when he doesn't have to.  

As Hallie asks more questions, she attracts new ghosts, women who disappeared without a trace.  Soon, someone's trying to beat her up, burn down her father's ranch, and stop her investigation.

Hallie's going to need Boyd, her friends, and all the ghosts she can find to defeat an enemy who has an unimaginable ancient power at his command.

My thoughts...

Wide Open isn't set in your typical paranormal or urban fantasy setting.  There's no big city, no subway, no skyscrapers or fancy cars or people with secret identities and hidden pasts.  Rural South Dakota isn't where books in this genre are usually set, but the desolate landscape, where major city conveniences are miles away and the local bars really are places where everyone knows each other, is perfect for the story that Deborah Coates tells.  

Hallie's tough and very no-nonsense, has seen action in Afghanistan, and is intent on making the Army her career.  She never intended to return home for an extended period of time, but after Dell dies, she returns on compassionate leave.  She's only got ten days to deal with Dell's death, which is a pretty tall order when her death makes no sense and the police will only say that it's a "continuing investigation".  It doesn't help that Hallie can see ghosts and knows there's some unfinished business lingering.

Hallie's a woman of few words, in a place where that's the norm.  Her friends who are chatterboxes, talking about anything to fill the time and the dead air, seem out of place with Hallie and her similarly taciturn father.  The words she does utter speak to her anger and confusion over Dell's death and the way that her hometown has changed in the time that she's been gone.  She finds an unlikely partner in sheriff Boyd Davies, who has secrets of his own that are keeping him hanging around a town that might not necessarily want him in the first place.  

This book isn't what I expected at first, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.  It's a story of ghosts and magic and secrets in small town America, where everyone knows everyone else's business but no one wants to talk about it.  The sense of fear and anxiety is almost something you can feel as you're reading, and it stuck with me long after the book.  I don't think this book is part of a planned series, but I would gladly read more with these characters.  I felt like we were just starting to get to know them by the time the story wrapped up, so I would love to see what happens next to them.

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