Review: Phantom Evil by Heather Graham

phantom evil by heather grahamFormat read: ebook borrowed from the library
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: mystery; paranormal romance
Series: Krewe of Hunters, #1
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: March 29, 2012
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A secret government unit, a group of renegade paranormal investigators…and a murder no one else can crack

Though haunted by the recent deaths of two teammates, Jackson Crow knows that the living commit the most heinous crimes.

A police officer utilizing her paranormal intuition, Angela Hawkins already has her hands full of mystery and bloodshed.

But one assignment calls to them too strongly to resist. In a historic mansion in New Orleans’s French Quarter, a senator’s wife falls to her death. Most think she jumped; some say she was pushed. And yet others believe she was beckoned by the ghostly spirits inhabiting the house—once the site of a serial killer’s grisly work.

In this seemingly unsolvable case, only one thing is certain: whether supernatural or all too human, crimes of passion will cast Jackson and Angela into danger of losing their lives…and their immortal souls.

My Review:

hexed by heather grahamAfter reading The Hexed last week, and loving it, I couldn’t resist going back to the beginning of this series and trying to figure out how the author got here from there.

Besides, I’m a terrible completist and it was driving me a bit nuts that I had so much fun with book 13 in a series and hadn’t gotten around to books 1-12. Now that I’ve read book 1, I can see that this series is going to be my “treat” reading for a while.

Phantom Evil is the first book in Heather Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series, and it establishes both the series and the group in a way that set the bar high for the rest. (The Hexed lived up to that bar!)

There are so many marvelous paranormal series set in New Orleans. There is obviously something about the long and storied history of that melange that inspires writers to do their spine-chillingest. (If you like New Orleans’ set paranormals, try Suzanne Johnson’s River Road.

Although there is a definite ghostly vibe to Phantom Evil, the story also establishes that evil is an act of the living. The ghosts are either icing on the cake, a distraction or possibly an influence, but it is living humans who choose the path that leads to the dark.

The mysterious Adam Harrison puts together a team of elite investigators under the leadership of Jackson Crow. Every member of the team has solid credentials, and experience in dealing with things that go bump in the night.

Not that there isn’t some bumping in the night together, but that’s not the main thrust of the story.

Harrison sends his team on their first mission; to investigate the death of a prominent State Senator’s wife–in a house that’s just chock-full of evil ghost stories.

The death has been ruled a suicide, but the Senator doesn’t believe it. He’s sure that the ghosts killed her.

Crow and his team go in with an open mind. Yes, one of New Orleans most notorious serial killers committed his crimes in the house, but State Senators have plenty of modern day skeletons in their closets.

And the victim didn’t fall from the balcony, she was thrown.

On the very first day, investigator Angela Hawkins finds a century old corpse in the basement. She’s led to the bones by a ghost. More and more evidence piles up that the house really is haunted.

Which still doesn’t mean that the 21st century victim wasn’t murdered by an equally 21st century killer.

The task before Crow’s task force is to determine who had the best motive (and opportunity) to want to relieve the Senator of his marital burden, while putting all of the 19th century ghosts to rest.

It’s especially difficult when there are murderers in both eras who equally want the investigation stopped–dead.

Escape Rating A-: This series seems to be paranormal romantic suspense, with the emphasis on the paranormal and the suspense. The story is chilling because there is both 21st century evil and 19th century evil, and both mysteries have to be solved to get a complete resolution.

That the ghosts don’t commit murder does not make the story any less chilling. Angela Hawkins is particularly sensitive to the ghostly hauntings, a sensitivity that both puts her in danger and saves her.

It’s also a sensitivity that brings out the protective instincts in Jackson Crow. Neither of them expected to find a relationship in the middle of the investigation, but it definitely adds to the story without taking anything away from the suspenseful elements.

In addition to the central mysteries, we also see the team develop. The scene where they decide on the name “Krewe of Hunters” made me want to cheer, but we also get to see the group form into an effective team. Every member has their particular strengths, and their growing partnership is fun to watch.

The investigation was absorbing as the team worked both the ghost angle and the political angle until they were able to solve all the puzzles.

Phantom Evil is a terrific start to the series, and I’m definitely looking forward to reading my way through the rest.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Hexed by Heather Graham + Giveaway

hexed by heather grahamFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: paranormal romance, romantic suspense
Series: Krewe of Hunters #13
Length: 400 pages
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Date Released: July 29, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

A place of history, secrets…and witchcraft.

Devin Lyle has recently returned to the Salem area, but her timing couldn’t be worse. Soon after she moved into the eighteenth-century cabin she inherited from her great-aunt Mina—her “crazy” great-aunt, who spoke to the dead—a woman was murdered nearby.

Craig Rockwell—known as Rocky—is a new member of the Krewe of Hunters, the FBI’s team of paranormal investigators. He never got over finding a friend dead in the woods. Now another body’s been found in those same woods, not far from the home of Devin Lyle. And Devin’s been led to a third body—by…a ghost?

Her discovery draws them both deeper into the case and Salem’s rich and disturbing history. Even as the danger mounts, Devin and Rocky begin to fall for each other, something the ghosts of Mina and past witches seem to approve of. But the two of them need every skill they possess to learn the truth—or Devin’s might be the next body in the woods…

My Review:

I was a bit worried starting this. It’s the 13th (unlucky number!) book in Graham’s Krewe of Hunters series. I’ve always meant to read the series, but never got around to book 1, Phantom Evil. This is a mistake that must be rectified!

While I was definitely able to get into the book without having read the others, this one was plenty good enough to make me WANT to read the rest of the series. (Thank goodness the library seems to have them all in ebook!)

The Hexed is paranormal romantic suspense. In other words, both a paranormal romance and romantic suspense. The suspense plot is a chilling search to find a serial killer, but the cops chasing the murderer all have paranormal powers. They don’t just see dead people, they talk to them.

It’s as if the FBI created an entire unit of ghost hunters. Which is a fascinating set up.

Even cooler, in the chilly, thrilly aspect, is that the serial killer is operating in Salem Massachusetts, and it looks like he or she is either a real witch or trying to throw suspicion on the local Wiccan community.

The story starts with a scene out of the movie Stand By Me, a concept that works even better considering that Stand By Me was based on Stephen King’s The Body.

Five friends discover the body of the sixth member of their clique dead in the woods. It’s a horrifying discovery that changes the lives of all the surviving high school students. But it’s more than merely coming across the body by accident.

Craig “Rocky” Rockwell discovers his friend Melissa because he heard her calling out to him, long after she was dead. And her body was positioned ritualistically with a pentacle hanging from her neck.

The discovery changed his life. Not just that his friend was dead, but that he heard her lead him to her body. Rocky set his sights on becoming a cop, and then an FBI agent. He was in the perfect position to return to Salem thirteen years later when more bodies starting turning up; murders that exactly matched the grisly sight he found as a teenager.

The difference is that this time, Rocky returns to his old hometown as part of the FBI’s Krewe of Hunters, an elite unit with special normal and paranormal talents. The other key change is that he meets Devin Lyle just after she has discovered body #3. And that Devin also heard the dead tell her where to locate that body.

Devin is the great-niece of the “Witch of the Woods” and she has been pushed into the paranormal world of the Krewe by the discovery. Or by her late great-aunt, who manifests in the house to watch over her niece.

Witchcraft trial at Salem Village
Witchcraft trial at Salem Village

As the bodies continue to pile up, Devin and the Krewe have to dig deep to figure out the motive for killing one young woman after another, a motive that is rooted not in Melissa’s death 13 years ago, but all the way back in the 1690s, in the infamous Salem witch trials.

The investigation becomes a race against time, as the list of possible suspects narrows, but it becomes clear that the killer is planning to end his spree with the death of Devin Lyle.

Rocky will do anything to prevent Devin turning into the killer’s final victim. But it’s hard to prevent a murder when no one can figure out who the 21st century killer might be. And in the end, all their assumptions and investigations point to the wrong perpetrator.

Escape Rating A-: The Hexed is tremendously fun and entertaining. The romantic suspense element seems to be primary, and it’s such a convoluted mystery! We follow the investigations every step of the way, as Rocky and Devin are forced to investigate all their friends down to their genealogy in order to get close to finding the killer.

Rocky was in a very difficult position. He’s new to the FBI team, and he has an emotional interest in the crime. At the same time, this is a long-postponed homecoming for him, and his old friends all want to connect with him. Meanwhile, he has to investigate them, because they are all potential suspects.

Devin was a terrific addition to the story. She’s a children’s book author, and has made a career out of telling stories using her “witchy” great aunt as the inspiration for her heroine. “Auntie Min” saves the day in every book, using her witchcraft for good. Devin is thrilled to death when her Aunt’s ghost appears, she loves the older woman and misses her terribly.

Although she’s a bit put out when her Aunt’s unscheduled appearances and disappearances put a crimp in her budding romance with Rocky. Ghostly chaperons are even more libido dampening than the regular kind. They are always a bit worried that the ghost is watching them, and she might be.

Devin is also forced to stretch herself in this story. She’s a successful author, but she feels compelled to help find the killer. Her research skills are respected and used by the Krewe to find the killer’s motives and help to determine who the potential victims are. At the same time, she is quite reasonably afraid of the events surrounding her, and while she’s mostly sensible about it, the attacks on her do move her relationship with Rocky into high gear.

Even though the research and investigation were leading up to the murderer, I was still as surprised as Devin when the perpetrator was finally revealed.

If you like a slightly spooky undertone to your romantic suspense (and I do) this was oodles of fun. I’m looking forward to catching up with the series, and also to the next book, The Betrayed. I wonder where the Krewe is headed next?


Heather is generously giving away the winner’s choice of The Cursed, The Hexed or The Betrayed.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews.
***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.