Tarot-medium Sophie Turner is back, and Boston is burning down around her as a string of serial arsons takes hold of the city. Her personal life isn’t faring much better as Sophie makes some disturbing – and potentially dangerous – discoveries about her friends that undermine her trust in those closest to her. Worse, after suffering a psychic dry spell, the newspapers are speculating that she’s a scam artist.
When a graduate student dies in one of the fires, Sophie spots a ghost at the crime scene. She thinks the spirit is weak, but finds out differently as the ghost gets inside her head, luring her into its past life. Sophie can only rely on herself, her ghost, and her gift to find the arsonist even as she becomes the killer’s target.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"The communication of the dead is tongued with fire beyond the language of the living.” – T.S. Eliot, Little Gidding
Death was everywhere.
Sophie Turner saw it in everything; it surrounded her.
She saw death walking into her store, Talismans. It hovered over the customers who asked for tarot readings and bought books. She saw it in restaurants, bookstores, subways. Out in the world, it walked along happily eating ice cream. Danced at parties, went to work.
Everyone would die.
Was she the only one who saw it? Or maybe she was never let to forget it. After months of lurking around crime scenes, it was difficult to think of anything else.
Her notoriety since solving her friend Patrice Bledsoe’s murder -- which included several television interviews as well as an article that Gabe had published about the event – had made her a known quantity. People who had lost someone, who had seen her on TV or who read about her in the paper called to see if she could help them.
The police didn’t call. Hell, no. They couldn’t admit to using some ghost-seeing crackpot to solve cases.
Pretty much everyone knew what she’d discovered only six months before: Sophie saw ghosts. More importantly, at least twice, communicating with ghosts through her tarot cards had allowed her to solve two present-day mysteries.
But she was having somewhat of a dry spell, it seemed. Since Patrice’s case was solved, not even a wisp of ghostly essence wafted through her life. The media had begun to speculate if she had been a two-ghost wonder. Or worse, that she was a scam artist.
She wasn’t wildly popular with the Boston PD. That was, in part, because she’d made them look foolish for making her their prime suspect in Patrice’s murder. She’d also broken an engagement with one of their best and finest.
Nonetheless, here she was standing among them. Investigators hovered, draped in black and blue jackets, backs hunched over, faces huddled together as they studied and discussed what they found. Of course, they didn’t include her in that discussion.
For a moment, she wondered why she had even come to the scene. Miscommunication in the news had led people to think she could contact any dead relative. No, sorry. Not unless they were murdered – not simply dead - and usually only if the ghost started the conversation. This didn’t add to her credibility.
“So, are you finished?” Detective Roger Paris – her ex – interrupted her thoughts.
Roger rubbed his neck, as if she was the pain that planted itself there. For some reason, that made her smile a little. They’d broken their engagement months ago, more or less amicably. He was a homicide detective and she sometimes saw the ghosts of murder victims. An outside observer might think they were a good match, but not so much.
Still, here they were here again, together bearing witness to the death of another poor soul. Sophie had been asked by the family of the girl who died in the fire to come to the scene of the latest arson in order to see if she picked up any vibes.
Sophie didn’t really do “vibes” and had politely declined, as she wasn’t likely to see their daughter’s ghost, which is what they hoped for. One more moment of contact, or some confirmation that Sarah was . . . somewhere. But that wasn’t the business that Sophie was in.
To the uninformed, one psychic was the same as another. Empaths, mediums, telepaths, clairvoyants. . .it generally made no difference to the general populace.
To Roger, they were all quacks.
Like most Bostonians, she had been following the news about the recent string of arsons, though there hadn’t been any deaths until now. Sarah Knowles, a twenty-five year old graduate student, was the first.
Sophie had been here for an hour, watching and observing. The acrid smell of wet ash and char -- and God knew what else -- was mitigated somewhat by the crisp fall air that seeped through the gaps and holes in the structure that was once Sarah Knowles’s home. The fire department had marked off a clear, narrow path that was safe to walk along, and Sophie had been warned very sternly to not step foot outside of it. The hard hat that someone had pushed onto her head was a little too large, and the gloves she wore were bulky, but she played by the rules.
She’d only been allowed inside because Roger had – reluctantly – allowed her to accompany him, since the family requested it. Looking around at loose timbers poking out like bones from the frail, skeletal walls, Sophie walked over to a desk chair where a pink cardigan -- mostly intact, though stained and singed -- still draped over the back. Touching it, she wondered if this was where Sarah sat and worked on her studies.
Sophie was frustrated, blank. She saw nothing that the other people in the room didn’t see, and chances were that they saw more. She was starting to feel like a disappointment. To herself, to her ghost-hunting boyfriend, and to the populace at large.
The first time she’d seen a ghost, he’d come to her looking for help. It appeared to be a relatively rare circumstance, her boyfriend Gabe theorized, since the ghost would only be attracted to the scene of a death similar to its own. There were rules to the ether, conditions that had to be met.
“Do you think it was an accident? Maybe the arsonist didn’t expect her to be here?” she wondered aloud.
“We’re not sure until the autopsy is done,” Roger said tersely. “But either way she’s just as dead and whoever set this fire is the killer.”
Sophie sighed. She couldn’t argue with that.