Review: “Recall Night,” Alan Baxter

Rating: 5 out of 5

In Alan Baxter’s Recall Night: An Eli Carver Supernatural Thriller – Book 2, Eli Carver has spent the past two years laying low in Canada. When his ghosts come back to haunt him–all five of them–he gets a message from Carly that she’s cleaned up the situation back home and therefore he’s safe to come back. He sets out by train, and ends up meeting Bridget Carlson, a professional gambler who’s trying to escape the man who taught her–with all the money she stole from him. When she goes to pay off a mobster she owes money to–paying Eli to be her “bodyguard”–they get caught up in a mob war. After they save Mr. Lombardi’s life, and Bridget loses her money to one of the attackers, the mob boss manipulates them into going after his enemies, who have apparently kidnapped his wife, Cora.

I love Eli’s troupe of ghosts of some of the people he’s killed. There’s Michael Privedi, his childhood best friend, his first kill and the least antagonistic of the ghosts. There’s Dwight Ramsey, a racist weed grower. There’s Sly Barclay, a Jamaican gang member and drug dealer. (As you might imagine, Dwight and Sly do not get along.) There’s Alvin Crake, auto mechanic and asshole. And then there’s Officer Graney, a police officer who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I’m pretty sure thanks to the ending of the last book that they’re all “real,” but Eli Carver still worries he’s just psychotic and they’re all in his head. Most of them seem to want to see him dead, but he still gets hints and warnings from them sometimes. I particularly appreciate, given the way things are going in the world right now, that Officer Graney isn’t an angel or even necessarily a good guy just because he wasn’t doing anything bad at the time of his death.

One amusing through-line is that Eli’s been reading some Japanese books and has decided he is a “ronin” and he should live by some sort of “code.” His ghostly entourage thinks this is hilarious, and love pointing out how he manages to rationalize so much killing as being within this code. He does go through some serious mental contortions to keep himself on Bridget’s side. Also, Eli is having to try to be subtle and inconspicuous in order to find out what he wants to know, and it’s pretty damn hilarious given how non-subtle he is.

This isn’t an incredibly long book, but it’s packed full of action, some confusion, and a heavy dash of the probably paranormal (between the ghosts and a character called “Papa Night”). I think the previous book was a little better just because I loved so much the experience of watching Eli try to remember who he was, with bits and pieces coming back as she went along. But this is an excellent read.

Content note for lots of killin’.

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