Seawitch, the seventh GREYWALKER novel, doesn’t miss a beat. Kat Richardson weaves an engrossing story of ghost ships and native folklore, dripping with special effects.
Harper Blaine can see into the Grey, a dimension next to ours. This ability allows her to interact with ghosts and other paranormal creatures. Harper is a private investigator in Seattle. While the majority of her cases are mundane, it’s pretty clear that this one will not be. Seawitch, a luxury yacht that disappeared with all hands twenty-seven years ago, has reappeared at its slip in its old marina. There is no one alive aboard, but Harper and Rey Solis, the Seattle PD detective assigned to the case, find sigils drawn in blood in one of the quarters. They could be a spell, a curse, or part of a protection circle. Harper also finds a haunted artifact from another drowned ship, the real-life steamship Valencia, which ran aground in 1906, and the story goes full-tilt from there.
Solis has always been suspicious of Harper, but onboard Seawitch he observes her going into the Grey for the first time. His reaction is very different from what Harper expected. Solis admits to her that he requested this case once he knew the insurance company had hired her. For deeply personal reasons, he wants to learn more about the Grey.
The case leads them on a sea-chase through the Strait of Juan de Fuca, one of the most treacherous water passages on the west coast. Harper’s goal is to free human souls trapped in the artifact, but there is more than one magical entity at work, and to figure out who to trust, Harper and Solis have to piece together what happened aboard the yacht twenty-seven years ago.
Richardson knows her way around boats and Puget Sound, and the expertise shows here. She gives us a lot of information about boats without ever slowing down the pace of the book, and manages to create a sense of beauty and menace when she writes about the Sound.
Puget Sound is a strange thing — almost an inland sea full of islands and deep saltwater crevasses caused by passing glaciers eons ago. In some places the depth of the bottom has never been mapped, only guessed at, and ships or planes that fall into the underwater canyons never come back — not even as broken pieces of flotsam.
The most dramatic action scene takes place on open water, as our heroes fend off a boarding party of merfolk transported by a waterspout.
As I stared at them through the Grey, the waterspout was thick with creatures that writhed and twisted in the rising liquid. A handful of human forms spun, screaming, in the water, festooned in seaweed and trailing chain. In front of it, coils of blue energy reached and spun through the waves toward Mambo Moon. The sea-witch or her minions had come to us.
Sergeant Solis has been in several of the GREYWALKER books. It was great to see more of his character revealed here. His interest in the Grey is powerful, but he is not prepared for what he experiences on this adventure. Harper is helped by her boyfriend Quinton, a man of many resources, and by an old salt named Zantree, a grandfather who lives on a boat at the marina, knew the people on Seawitch, and loves to dress up as a pirate.
The historical part of the mystery has some comments to make about the self-indulgence of the 1980s, but the real drama takes place on or in the water. Seawitch is a riveting adventure. Even at home on dry land, Harper is not safe, because she and Quinton are facing a new threat from a ruthless and powerful man with connections to Quinton’s past. Seawitch is a thoroughly satisfying entry in the GREYWALKER series.