My search for books with disabled or minority characters wasn’t doing too well when I stumbled on to the Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper series by happy accident. One of the main characters, Calvin, is an ex-homicide cop who happens to use a wheelchair. Calvin is the brains behind the paranormal investigation firm. His wheelchair use is never the most important thing about him, and it never stops him from doing his job. When he drives too fast it’s because as an ex-cop he never worries about getting caught not because he isn’t using the regular gas pedal. Two things made his character great for me: first, how he came to be in a wheelchair isn’t even discussed in the first two books. We learn about him as a person, about his dog, the food he likes, and so on before we learn about his injury. Second, when we do learn about his injury the information is presented as fact, not a tear-jerking story or a reason to celebrate his accomplishments. Instead, the information comes out naturally, as part of the story.
A story I devoured like kettle corn. I’m three books into the series, and I’ve only known about it for a week. The books are filled with old-fashioned ghost stories. Bride ghosts who were wronged at the altar. Abandoned ghosts who have gone mad with loneliness. Addict ghosts who are still searching for a fix. And those none of those are the main ghost stories, they’re just fun side trips on the way to the really scary stuff.
The first novel, Ellie Jordan, Ghost Trapper, introduces Ellie, Calvin, and the newest recruit to their firm, a young former beauty queen, Stacy. Stacy acts as a surrogate for the reader, asking all the questions we would want to ask. Ellie isn’t pleased with Stacy’s eager outlook but when what appears to be a simple haunting turns out to be multiple ghosts, including one with nasty ties to the occult, Stacy grows up and stands strong. In addition to the ghost story there’s some great interaction between Ellie and her client’s little girl who is terrorized by the haunting. The girl’s father is written as a jerk, a very believable misogynist sports-obsessed jerk. I give the author huge kudos for writing someone so unlikable and not torturing them. While I hoped the man who get his comeuppance, the more realistic ending was a better choice.
In the second novel, Cold Shadows, a family moves into a house where the toys play with themselves and water drips from dry ceilings. This story repeated the best parts of the first one: Calvin giving advice, Ellie and Stacy relating to the clients with empathy, and the ghosts turning out to be bigger, darker, and scarier than they first let on. Trigger Warning/Mild Spoiler Alert – the ghosts in this story come with a history of spousal and child abuse. But this is handled well, without any apology or aggrandizing. The ghost family dynamic plays out while the ghost trappers struggle to free the live family from the haunting.
In the third novel, The Crawling Darkness, we learn that Calvin was hurt on the job, shot by ghostly bullets that severed his spine. The ghost that created them is actually a Closet Monster, a literal boogeyman that feeds on fear. By this point in the series Ellie has opened up as a person, learning to trust her team members. She even takes Calvin’s advice to consider getting a personal life. Stacy shares more of her own background, revealing hidden strength and old scars. I was glad Calvin wasn’t magically healed through the battle with the entity. His disability didn’t get “fixed” in the end, just like Ellie didn’t get over her fear of fire.
I’m half-way through the series of six books, and I’m already sad there aren’t more. Set in historic Savannah with characters that feel like real people instead of cardboard cutouts and filled with scary ghosts, these are a fun read. They’re exactly my kind of candy.