Unholy Ghosts

Unholy Magic
City of Ghosts
Sacrificial Magic
Chasing Magic

Unholy Ghosts

Del Rey (May 25, 2010)
ISBN-10: 0345515579
ISBN-13: 978-0345515575

Read an Excerpt

Available in Mass Market Paperback, eBook, and Audiobook


The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen and constantly attack the living. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Consequently, there are many false claims of hauntings from those hoping to profit. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully-tattooed witch and freewheeling Debunker and ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for nailing the human liars or banishing the wicked dead. But she’s keeping a dark secret from the Church: a little drug problem that’s landed her in hot and dangerous water.

Chess owes a murderous drug lord named Bump a lot of money. And Bump wants immediate payback. All Chess has to do is dispatch a very nasty species of undead from an old airport. But the job involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and crossing swords with enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust with a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah.

Fans of urban fantasy will find themselves sleep-deprived after they start this new series. It’s that hard to put down. Characters with larger-than-life personalities rule against a dark and dangerous backdrop. This is an exciting world you’ll want to escape into again and again. Don’t worry, the next book will be out in July!

UNHOLY GHOSTS is the first book in Stacia Kane’s new series and is absolutely a full on winner!…The characters are kick ass and the plot will have you on the edge of your seat. I absolutely recommend it!

UNHOLY GHOSTS is a wonderful, weird, wild tale filled with gritty magic, punk rock and macabre spirits. Kane’s world is dark, dangerous and haunted, populated by hustlers, junkies and exorcists…and you’ll never want to leave. Simply the best book I’ve read this year.

— Caitlin Kittredge, author of STREET MAGIC

Stacia Kane’s UNHOLY GHOSTS is one of the most interesting books I’ve read in months. Vivid characters and superior world-building combine with a wonderful sense of pace to create a gripping book. I was enthralled.

— Charlaine Harris, NYT Bestselling author of the Sookie Stackhouse (Southern Vampires) series and the Harper Connelly series

Expect the unexpected. Kane delivers dark, sexy urban fantasy at its finest. I couldn’t put it down!

— Karen Marie Moning, NYT Bestselling author of the Fever series and the Highlander series

In UNHOLY GHOSTS, Stacia Kane has penned the ultimate bible of badassery. This is a black diamond of an urban fantasy, fierce and darkly satisfying as running on a storm-lashed shore.

— Ann Aguirre, national bestselling author of Blue Diablo and Doubleblind

Fans of urban fantasy will find themselves sleep-deprived after they start this new series. It’s that hard to put down. Characters with larger-than-life personalities rule against a dark and dangerous backdrop. This is an exciting world you’ll want to escape into again and again. Don’t worry, the next book will be out in July!

UNHOLY GHOSTS is the first book in Stacia Kane’s new series and is absolutely a full on winner!…The characters are kick ass and the plot will have you on the edge of your seat. I absolutely recommend it!

Stacia Kane has written an engrossing fantasy novel whose characters with their mix of vulnerabilities and friendships will worm their way into your heart… Her talent for world-building and ability to outline the concepts of the Church of Truth in easily understandable terms lend credibility to her work. Kane’s characters may have flaws, but they’re strong, likable and well-developed… I read the book straight through and eagerly await the second book in the series, UNHOLY MAGIC.

The action, suspense, sexual tension, and chills make this an intense book. Once you get into this novel, you will not want to put it down, and I am looking forward to more Chess Putnam adventures in the future.

Intricately plotted within a disturbing setting, UNHOLY GHOSTS will be riveting for many readers…

In short? I loved [Chess], and not just because I love the Betty Page haircut (even though I really, really do). I went in expecting her to be a cardboard cutout ass-kicker and, instead, found an extremely flawed woman who, like all of us, makes bad decisions and then has to get out of them. She certainly doesn’t consider herself a hero. … As far as she’s concerned, she’s just trying to keep herself alive however she can. …
As I mentioned in my brief list of reasons-why-this-book-is-awesome, there’s a lot of action and very little fluff. …
If you like urban fantasy, ghost stories, or maybe you just want to try something exciting, definitely pick up this book. At the very least, it’ll be a fun ride. As for me, I think I’m a Chess Putnam fan for good.

UNHOLY GHOSTS is a thrilling ride, textured and vivid, a powerhouse of fantasy. Brimming with characters that aren’t quite heroes but aren’t quite bad guys either, it shows the hard core, broke down parts of the world other stories skip over, the dark side of reality that comes not from magic, but from the poor, desperate and disillusioned trying to make it through a hard life.

UNHOLY GHOSTS is to be commended for the risks it takes, while at the same time deserving of being held in check for them. I honestly think some will be turned off while others will eagerly embrace a book that does take risks like this. As for me, I honestly struggled with how to rate it. On one hand, I’m glad to have read it and experienced a truly unique urban fantasy.

UNHOLY GHOSTS is the first book in Stacia Kane’s new series and absolutely full of win! From the very start, Kane just draws the reader in effortlessly. Chess is unlike any other heroine you’ll ever read about… While I loved Chess, Terrible just stole the show for me. He was my favorite and no matter how much I loved the other characters, I lived for his parts.

Another thing that made UNHOLY GHOSTS a book of never-ending awesomeness for me was the pace… There’s no awkward pauses or drawn-out monologue and that to me is brilliant. I don’t want to have to sigh in boredom or feel like the action overshadows everything else and in this book, neither happens. UNHOLY GHOSTS is the beginning of a new Urban Fantasy series that I think it will be a huge hit. The characters are kick ass and the plot will have you on the edge of your seat. I absolutely recommend it!

For me, Stacia Kane brought UF back to its gritty, noir-ish roots where the city and the world is as much a character as the protagonist…In sum, UNHOLY GHOSTS is part creepy horror, part old-school urban fantasy, and completely awesome. I say go out and buy it if it sounds interesting to you, because it’s not like anything you’ve read in a while. Trust me.

Finished Stacia Kane’s UNHOLY GHOSTS today, her debut in her new series and it was seriously a wild ride! It was dark, gritty, edgy and enthralling from the first chapter!

The pace of the book was wonderful and the story gripped me ASAP and didn’t let me go till the last word. I loved how Ms. Kane shows us that looks are deceiving and we should never judge a person just with taking one glance at him or her. A highly recommended read not only for Urban Fantasy lovers, but for anyone who likes a good story.

I love the authors writing, the characters are rich, the story arc will keep you gripped and the dialogue is not only sharp but witty to help lighten the sombre setting. It’s brave, it’s a great read but above all else it’s the depth and complexities of the characters that makes this a wonderful read for me.

I was immediately sucked into the dystopian world-building. Brilliant. I mean, WOW. Dingy Downside streets populated with punk-greaser kids contrasted with suburban bliss and the safety of the new Truth-based Church—whose clergy members reminded me a bit of Gainsborough’s Blue Boy. The esoteric elements were believable, the pacing of the book was fast and furious, and the characters were lusciously drawn. … Kane knows how to write; her prose is simple, controlled, and effective. And after all the hub-bub over the unusual slang, I personally found the Downspeak dialogue to be utterly delightful.

From its harrowing opening scene until its highly-satisfying slam-bang ending, UNHOLY GHOSTS grips the reader by the scruff of the neck and never relinquishes its hold.

I think UNHOLY GHOSTS is a unique concept in the urban fantasy genre and I cannot say enough about it. I know I am already anxious to get started on the next book in the series, UNHOLY MAGIC. All I can say is add this book to your summer reading list today!

Loved it, loved it, and loved it! The plot was unlike any other book I have ever read. I really liked the way the book was able to deliver. Paranormal fans everywhere will be talking about this book for a while.

UNHOLY GHOSTS by Stacia Kane is one of those books that makes me really excited about the future of the genre… some of the strongest world building I’ve ever seen in an urban fantasy world… a dark blend of urban fantasy and horror. Kane has created a unique world, and characters that stick with you.

I think most people will say they like it when an author takes risks, goes for something different and writes outside the box. After reading UNHOLY GHOSTS, I have to wonder if Stacia Kane is aware there is a box. Really, UNHOLY GHOSTS pushes the limits in what we’re seeing in Urban Fantasy today…[it’s] one of the best Urban Fantasy stories I’ve read this year. It’s rich with details, the suspense is heart stopping at times, and the world building is fabulously unique. Don’t let my rant about the drug use deter you from reading this book, you would be missing out if you did… Stacia Kane has taken some risks with smashing results.

This is an ambitious novel, a novel that shuns the formulaic pitfalls and conventionality of other bestselling paranormal fantasy sagas. This is Stacia Kane at the top of her game—it is a writer evolved, a storyteller matured, an imagination fully unleashed upon the world…Dark, stylish, and wildly original…

I think that this book should have come with a do-not-read-before-going-to-bed-or -you-will-be-up-all-night disclaimer. I didn’t want to put [it] down once it got going. There were so many twists and turns! There just aren’t any boundaries in this book…this book is utterly compelling.

Chess was a very unique individual. I’ve never before read about a main character that was also addicted to drugs, and it was a very fresh idea for the urban fantasy genre. In a genre full of kick ass bounty hunters and assassins and law enforcement officers, it was a breath of fresh air to read about a less than perfect, flawed character that read almost like an anti-hero.

Any series that is described as “a cross between Ghostbusters and Escape From New York” is going to get my attention, big time. Of course that also means said series is going to have a lot to live up to. And in one of the wonderfully rare cases, UNHOLY GHOSTS does exactly that. It’s cool and twisted, just the way I like my urban fantasy.

I’m so excited about this book – I LOVED it! I haven’t read an Urban Fantasy this good in quite a while…The writing is perfectly paced, I didn’t get bored once and everything slots together at the right time. The plot is just brilliant and had me engrossed until the very last page – I didn’t want to put this book down!

What really makes UNHOLY GHOSTS stand out is that despite being atypical in certain aspects, it never fails to entertain or grip you. [It] is a witty, at times moving, unique Urban Fantasy by an uncommonly good writer.

Foreign Releases

(Click on the covers to go to the publisher’s site for more info).

UK (MAY 2010)
Unholy Ghosts - UK Release
Unholy Ghosts - Polish Release
Unholy Ghosts - German Release
NORWAY (2012)
Unholy Ghosts - Norwegian Release

Read an Excerpt

New! Download the first FIVE chapters in PDF form here! UNHOLY GHOSTS sample (2622)

Note: this excerpt is from the pre-copy-edited manuscript. Final version may vary slightly.

“And the living prayed to their gods and begged for rescue from the armies of the dead, and there was no answer. For there are no gods.”
— from The Book of Truth, Origins, Article 12

Chapter One

Had the man in front of her not already been dead, Chess probably would have tried to kill him. Damned ghosts. A year and a half she’d gone without having to deal with one—the best Debunking record in the Church.

Now when she needed her bonus more than ever, there he was. Mocking her. Floating a few feet off the parquet floor of the Sanfords’ comfortable suburban split-level in the heart of Cross Town, with his arms folded and a bored look on his face.

“Too good to go where you’re supposed to, Mr. Dunlop?”

Mr. Dunlop’s ghost gave her the finger. Asshole. Why couldn’t he just accept the inevitable?

He’d been an ass in life, too, according to her records. Hyram Dunlop, formerly of Westside, banker and father of two, all deceased. Mr. Dunlop should have been resting for the last fifty years, not turning up here to rattle pipes and throw china and generally make a nuisance of himself.

Right. She set the dog’s skull in the center of the room, checking her compass to make sure she faced East, and lit the black candles on either side of it, her body moving automatically as she arranged her altar the way she’d done dozens, if not hundreds, of times before. Next came the tall forked stang in its silver base, garlanded with specially grown blue and black roses. She set the bag of dirt from Mr. Dunlop’s grave in front of the skull for later use.

Unholy GhostsHer small cauldron in its holder took a few extra minutes to set up. Mr. Dunlop moved behind her, but she ignored him. Showing fear to the dead—or any sort of emotion at all—was asking for trouble. She filled the cauldron with water, lit the burner beneath it, and tossed in some wolfsbane.

With a stub of black chalk she marked the front door and started on the windows, stepping deliberately through Dunlop’s spectral form despite the unpleasant chill.

The set of his jaw lost some of its defiance as she pulled out the salt and started sprinkling it. “This is probably going to hurt,” she said.

Her gaze wandered to the grandfather clock in the corner, just outside the sloppy salt ring. Almost eight o’clock. Fuck. She was starting to itch.

Not badly, of course. Nothing she couldn’t handle. But it was there, making her mind wander and her toes wiggle in her shoes, when she needed to be sharp.

She’d just begun closing off the hallway when Mr. Dunlop bolted up the stairs.

The symbols on the doors and windows—she’d already done the bedrooms—would keep him from leaving the actual building, but…shit.

She’d forgotten the master bedroom fireplace. The chimney flue.

Pausing only long enough to snatch up the bag of grave dirt, she raced after him. The grave dirt wasn’t supposed to come until later, when the psychopomp had already shown up to escort him, but it was the only way she could think of to stop him.

Mr. Dunlop’s feet were only just visible when she reached the bedroom, hanging in the fireplace. She grabbed a small handful of dirt and flung it at them.

Dunlop fell. His silent lips formed words which were probably not kind. She ignored him, ducking into the fireplace to mark the flue with chalk before he could try again. “There’s no escaping. You know you shouldn’t be here.”

He shrugged.

From her pocket she pulled her Church-issued Ectoplasmarker—nobody ever said the Church was clever, just that they knew how to protect humanity from spirits—and uncapped it. Dunlop stared up at her, his face rippling in panic. She leaned toward him and he sank through the floor.

Before he managed to disappear completely she ran back downstairs and grabbed her salt, finishing the hallway while Dunlop floated through the ceiling—outside of the circle.

In the short time they’d been upstairs the atmosphere in the room had changed, her energy mingling with that of the herbs to fill the room with power. Chess glanced at her altar. The dog’s skull rattled and clicked like a set of castanets, rising slightly from the floor. The psychopomp was coming.

Dunlop backed away when she started towards him, holding the Ectoplasmarker out in front of her. She’d already memorized his passport symbol. Now she just had to get him back into the circle and get the symbol on him before the dog came.

Only once had she heard of a Debunker who didn’t manage it. He got lucky. The dog took the ghost. But that was luck, nothing else. Without the passport, the minute that dog finished materializing could be the last minute of her life.

Dunlop bumped into the wall and glanced back, surprised. Ghosts could choose to touch inanimate objects or slide through them…until the object was solidified on the metaphysical plane.

“I marked them.” She used her foot to break the line of salt. “You can’t get through them. You can’t escape. This will be a lot easier if you just relax and let me do my job, you know. Why don’t you come here and hold your hand out for me?”

He folded his arms and shook his head. She sighed.

“Okay. Have it your way.” She crushed asafetida between her fingers and sprinkled it over the floor around him.

“Hyram Dunlop, I command you to enter this circle to be marked and sent to rest. I command you to leave this plane of existence.”

Unholy GhostsShe jumped when the growl echoed through the room and the skull leapt into the air. The rest of the dog flowed into existence behind it, each bone sharp and clean in the wavering candlelight.

Shit! Shit shit. She was still the only one in the circle.

Worse, they both smelled of asafetida. She hadn’t rinsed her hands yet. The dog—magically created to sense the herb—wouldn’t know the difference between them.

Chess screamed as the skeletal dog lunged at her, skin and fur growing over its bones. She fell into—fell through—Hyram Dunlop. The cold was worse this time, probably because she wasn’t ready for it, or maybe because she was terrified by the sight of those sharp, shiny canine teeth snapping the air only inches from her arm. If they reached her—

The dog’s mouth closed around her left calf, pulling. Eyes appeared in the formerly hollow sockets, glowing red, brighter as it firmed its grip and tugged.

Behind the dog the air rippled. Shadowy images superimposed themselves over the tasteful taupe walls of the Sanford house, silhouettes gray and black against lit torches.

Something inside Chess started to give. The dog—the psychopomp—was doing its job, tugging its lost soul out of the Sanford house and into the city of the dead.

But her soul wasn’t lost—at least, not in the way required.

Hyram’s eyes widened as she reached for him again, her hand passing through his chest.

“Hyram Dunlop, I command you…”

The words ended in a strangled gurgle. It hurt, fuck it really fucking hurt. It was peeling, like someone was tearing away layers of her skin one by one, exposing every tender, raw nerve she possessed, and she possessed so many of them.

Her vision blurred. She could let go, if she wanted to. She could float away—the dog would gentle once it knew it had her—and vanish, no more problems, no more pain, no more…

Only the boredom of the city, with nothing to take the edge off. And the knowledge that she’d died a stupid death and let this miserable jerk of a spirit beat her. No. No way.

She moved her hand, reaching again for Hyram. This time her fingers connected with something solid, something that felt warm and alive. Hyram. He wasn’t alive. She was dying.

But in death she could grab hold of him and drag him into the broken circle. In death she could use the strength of her will to bring the Ectoplasmarker down on Hyram’s suddenly solid flesh. In death she could mark him with his passport, the symbol to identify him to the Psychopomp, and physically hold him in place.
Desperately she scrawled the figure on his arm, while her soul stretched between Hyram and the dog like a taut clothesline. She didn’t dare look away to see what her physical body was doing.

She managed the last line as her vision went entirely black. Pain shot through her as she fell to the floor with a house-rattling thud, but it was physical pain, bone pain, not the agony of having her living soul ripped from her body.

She opened her eyes just in time to see Hyram Dunlop disappear through the rippling patch of air.

* * *

Her fingers scrabbled at the clasp on her heavy silver pillbox, lifting the lid. She grabbed two of the large white pills inside and gobbled them, biting down so the bitterness flooded her taste buds and made her nose wrinkle. It tasted awful. It tasted wonderful. The sweetest things were bitter on the outside, Bump had told her once, and oh how right he’d been.

Her fingers closed around her water bottle and she twisted off the cap and took a gulp, swishing it around in her mouth so the crushed pills could enter her bloodstream under her tongue, so they could start dissolving before they slid down into her stomach and blossomed from there.

Her eyes closed. The relief wasn’t everything it would be in twenty minutes, in half an hour as the Cepts digested fully. But it was something. The shaking eased enough for her to control her hands again.
Cleaning up was the worst part of Banishings. Or rather, it was usually. This time the worst part had been feeling her soul pull from her flesh like a particularly sticky Band-Aid.

Carefully she put her altar pieces back in her bag, wrapping the dog skull in hemp paper before setting it on top of everything else. She’d have to buy a new one. This dog had tasted her. She couldn’t use it again.
Her Cepts started to kick in as she swept. Her stomach lifted, that odd, delicious feeling of excitement—of anticipation—making her smile without really realizing it. Things weren’t so terrible, after all. She was alive. Alive, and just high enough to feel good about it.

The Sanfords arrived home just as she knelt outside their front door with a hammer and an iron nail.

“Welcome home,” she said, punctuating her words with sharp taps of the hammer. “You shouldn’t have any more problems.”

“He’s…gone?” Mrs. Sandford’s dark eyes widened. “Really gone?”


“We can’t thank you enough.” Mr. Sanford had a way of speaking, his voice booming out from his barrel chest, that made his voice echo off the stucco walls of the house.

“Part of my job.” She couldn’t even bring herself to be mad at the Sanfords right now. It wasn’t their fault they were honest and haunted, instead of faking like ninety-nine percent of Debunking cases.

She finished driving in the nail and stood up. “Don’t move that, whatever you do. We’ve found that homes where a genuine haunting occurred are more vulnerable to another one. The nail should prevent it.”

Unholy Ghosts“We won’t.”

Chess put the hammer back in her bag and waited, trying to keep a pleasant smile on her face. Mr. and Mrs. Sanford shuffled their feet and glanced at each other. What were they—


“Why don’t we go on inside, and we’ll finish your paperwork off and get you your check, okay?”

The Sanford’s anxious expressions eased. Chess couldn’t really blame them. If she was about to be handed fifty thousand dollars from the Church just because she’d had an escaped ghost in her house, she’d be pretty relaxed, too. Just like she would have felt if she’d gotten her bonus. It would have been ten grand on this job, enough to pay Bump and have something left over until the next one.

Stupid ghosts always ruined everything, like loud babies in a nice restaurant.

They offered her coffee, which she declined, and water, which she accepted, while they signed various forms and affadavits. It was almost nine-thirty by the time she handed over their check, and she still had to stop by the graveyard before she could get to the market. Damn Mr. Dunlop. She hoped he was being punished justly.

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