Ghosts Of War by George Mann (book review).

‘Ghosts Of War’ sees the return of the eponymous and anonymous hero of ‘Ghosts Of Manhattan’. Living in an alternative version of the Earth, the United States is undergoing a cold war with the British Empire. The US has its system of government, including the powerful senators who surround the President, and the United Kingdom is ruled by Queen Alberta and her network of government spies and calumny.


The Ghost is actually Gabriel Cross, millionaire playboy in the mould of the Great Gatsby, war hero, scarred inside and out. He broods a lot. His persona is a cross with the Scarlet Pimpernel and Batman with only his friend, Police Inspector Felix Donavan and his manservant, Henry, knowing the truth. Instead of a Batmobile, he has rocket boots. I repeat rocket boots. I can’t help thinking he would be mostly without his toes if not his feet if he actually tried to use such technology. However, in fiction, it’s a great way to get into the air, particularly when you are faced with mechanical raptors who are abducting an alarming amount of people from New York. In between standing on roof tops and staring a lot, Gabriel undertakes to investigate the problems that the police force fail at and, helped by Donavan, starts to uncover a terrible conspiracy. A scientist, more machine than man, has created the raptors and is using the human captives to forward his appalling experiments. Gabriel will need to make sacrifices to find out the truth. The stakes are high, folks, but, of course, when you are part of a series, its odds on that the Ghost will win out somehow. Fast-paced action is followed by periods of reflection and brooding. There’s always time for brooding.

Meanwhile, one of Queen Alberta’s loyal foot soldiers, the spy Rutherford has problems of his own and, as the two stories converge, we are treated to a great finale which involves much destruction and death. Pretty much what we were expecting then. Other complications include Gabriel’s friend, Ginny, coming back into his life. Whilst she consumes her body weight in alcohol, he must consider whether to reveal his true self to her as he struggles with the secrecy he must bear. Time for another brood.

This is a novel longing to be a comicbook. The action bursts off the page but the dialogue can often feel over-heated and extreme. It is often breathless and does have some genuinely curious and inventive characters. It’s fun as pure escapism harking back to Saturday morning pictures. Tortured angsty heroes always have mileage and there might even be time for some romance but let’s not get carried away. As they say at the flicks, the Ghost will return…

A brand news and exclusive short story about the Ghost is included in this revised edition.

Sue Davies

March 2015

(pub: Titan Books. 352 page paperback. Price: £ 7.99 (UK). ISBN: 9781783294145)

check out website: www.titanbooks.com

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