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Ghosts of Manhattan
George Mann
Titan Books, 327 pages

Ghosts of Manhattan
George Mann
George Mann is the Consultant Editor of Solaris and the author of The Mammoth Encyclopaedia of Science Fiction, The Human Abstract and Time Hunter: The Severed Man. He lives and works in Nottinghamshire, England.

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A review by Sandra Scholes

George Mann is the author of many novels for Titan Books; Ghosts of War, Ghosts of Karnak, Ghosts of Empire: The Casebook of Newbury and Hobbes, The Executioner's Heart: A Newbury and Hobbes Investigation, The Revenant Express, Sherlock Holmes: The Will of the Dead and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box.

What if history as we know it had been different? In 1926 New York City, it's the time of the roaring twenties where coal run cars and zeppelins and biplanes watch over the citizens of the city. America is at war with the British Empire, yet in Manhattan the police are faced with a mafia so strong they can't hope to win against them. Only one man, a lone vigilante can try to break their morale and he is called the Ghost.

On the streets of New York crime batters the citizens who have a difficult time living there after the Great War has ravaged their hope of a decent life, only one man can help them. However, all the trouble comes from one man who escalates violence for his own greedy ends; the Roman. He has seen what happens to countries, civilized ones and wants to bring this particular one to its knees. With allies like "Fat Ollie" Day working the streets for him he thinks the city will be his for the taking, but the Ghost might have something to say about that. For Ollie, death comes in the shape of a tall man with red goggles, a hat and a black trench coat who brandishes a gun and many more weapons besides secreted within the folds of that trench coat. As a vigilante he is scared of nothing, no man, nothing can crack his resolve, not even the Roman himself, but even the Roman has ways of being able to get to the people the Ghost knows.

Mann has introduced only a handful of characters in his story set in the twenties with futuristic technology that can easily read like the steampunk we have grown so fond of. The lead character, the Ghost, has the trademark goggles that enable him to see better than any man's eyes, while his black trench coat and hat hides his true identity from the world. He strikes a haunting figure, but who could the vigilante be in the real life of Manhattan? There aren't many possibilities, so it is easy enough for the reader to ascertain which character he could be. Felix Donovan is an inspector hot on the trail of the murderer of his third victim in a new case he believes could be the work of the Roman. James Landsworth Senior was a respected senator so to see him in his hotel room, pants round his ankles and a dead whore at his side was a strange sight to behold as he was such an upstanding man. He supported prohibition and had several right-wing views he didn't mind voicing. The reason Donovan suspects the Roman are due to the Roman coins placed over the dead senator's eyelids. The first two bodies had been a councillor and a surgeon, both with the same coins left over the eyelids like a calling card. The odd fact about the Roman is that no one has ever seen him, or knows him personally enough to speak of what he looks like. Gabriel Cross is a wealthy man defined by his large inheritance that lives the sort of lifestyle most men dream of; money, parties, friends and of course a lover whom it seems returns his affections. Both men are from different parts of the same world, but only Donovan has to see the real horrors of daily life that surrounds the mobsters of 1920's Manhattan. Mann's world is part steampunk, part gangster and all mystery.

Copyright © 2014 Sandra Scholes

Sandra has been published in Albedo One, Hellnotes, The British Fantasy Society, Love Romance Passion and Rainbow Book Reviews.

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