Jamie Lee Moyer is definitely getting up to cruising speed with her second novel, A Barricade Hell. The book is a sequel to Delia’s Shadow (see my review) and the reader is once again transported to WWI-era San Francisco. Our lovely, young ghost seer Delia is back and has now been married for several years to the detective she met and fell in love with in the previous book. The couple is happy, but remains childless after a tragic miscarriage, which may be a result of Delia’s paranormal sensitivities. Now Delia is haunted by the ghost of a young girl—is it the spirit of a daughter that might have been?
Meanwhile Gabe, her husband, is investigating a series of grisly murders that have left a trail of bloodless corpses strewn across the city. When his searches lead him to the underground occult gangs of Chinatown, Gabe knows he must bring his wife’s unique talents into the investigation, no matter how much he fears for her safety. Together they look for answers to bring justice for the ever-increasing crowd of ghost victims that haunt them both.
Unlike the first book, which spent a fair bit of time laying the story groundwork, A Barricade in Hell makes use of the advantages of a sequel and dives directly into the action. Moyer’s descriptions and settings remain as wonderfully well-painted as the first novel and are a particular delight for lovers of this uniquely beautiful Northern California city. The historical details provided for the era, e.g. the construction of the bayside Embarcadero wharfs, afford a serendipitous, bonus level of interest.
Moreover, this novel does not suffer from what I felt was the primary weakness of the first book— distance between the characters and the reader. Perhaps it is partially due to this being a sequel and the reader is already familiar with the main characters, but I also felt that focus in Barricade was directly on Delia and Gabe, rather than too much diffused among secondary characters such as Jack and Sadie. The buzz of finding new love is no longer present, as it was in Delia’s Shadow, but there is much greater of a sense of the husband/wife team and how they think and operate.
The story is strong throughout, but the only weakness I felt was an ending that was slightly rushed and consequently anticlimactic. What I do hope this indicates, however, is that Moyer is setting up for the next sequel because she is certainly getting her readers hooked!