Book Review: Voodoo Shanghai by Kristi Charish

Title: Voodoo Shanghai

Author: Kristi Charish

Publisher: Vintage Canada

Publication Date: February 18, 2020

Genres: Urban Fantasy

Shelves: Female-fronted, Female-authored

What? No! That ending . . . that last chapter . . . that closing scene . . . Voodoo Shanghai is “the third and final installment in the Kincaid Strange saga . . . and I am totally and absolutely wrecked.

Kristi Charish has elected to go out with a bang here, offering up the biggest, boldest, and darkest entry in the series, complete with ghosts, zombies, serial killers, witches, and celebrity ghost hunters. Shifting the action from Seattle to Portland breathes new life into the series, taking Strange out of her element and isolating her from her usual support structure. That also allows Charish to introduce new settings and new story elements, beginning with a strange barn, a creepy 1950s dinner scene, and a marsh that is so clouded with Otherside, it’s blinding.

This is such a hard book to talk about without spoilers. It’s a paranormal mystery from page one, with so many huge questions that you can’t stop turning pages, no matter how late it is. What I can say is Strange gets even more of an edge than usual here, growing beyond her role supporting the Seattle PD and seriously challenging for her federal license. She refuses to pick things back up with Aaron, gets deeper with Gideon in weaving ghost traps, and stands her ground against a police department and FBI that demand she betray her principles and bind the ghost of a dead serial killer.

The ghost aspect of this is amazing enough, and the absence of ghosts is even better, but I will say no more on that. Okay, so actually, I will. I freely admit to geeking out over the amount of paranormal detail here, what with mirrors and pentagrams, ghost traps and bindings, definitions of ghosts versus poltergeists, and the use of Otherside as a tool, a defense, an energy source, and a weapon. Anybody who says urban fantasy doesn’t need world-building has not encountered a Kristi Charish novel!

The pacing in Voodoo Shanghai is nearly relentless, barely giving readers a chance to breath, and never wasting a scene. There are moments of humor here, some of it surreal and some of it sarcastic, with the oddities of the well-hung My Little Pony centaur and crack-smoking Care Bear sculptures and the dark humor of the perverted airport ghost setting the tone early on.

As for characters, there are some big personalities in the story, both good and bad, and they hold their own against Strange. Highlights for me, at least without spoiling any latter-chapter secrets, were Stephan Wolf (FBI agent), Bergen Wolf (witch), Martin Dane (serial killer), Astrid Young (ghost), and Liam Sinclair (paranormal celebrity).

The entire Kincaid Strange saga has been a fun ride, and if Voodoo Shanghai is really it, then Charish has gone out on a bang.

Rating: ♀ ♀ ♀ ♀ 1/2

My sincere thanks to the publisher for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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