Harper Blaine is a private investigator who was recently beaten so badly that she died. For two minutes, and then the EMTs brought her back, and after a few weeks recovering, she's getting back into the swing of things.
Except that she has continuing problems with her vision, hearing, and odd smells. As her hallucinations get worse, she seeks out help. After a number of conversations with various helpful people, Harper finally accepts the fact that she brought some of the unknown back with her when she was revived, and her link with that realm is here to stay.
In other words, she is a "greywalker", who can walk between this world and the Grey, which is a transition zone between here and whatever happens to most of us when we die. As a greywalker, she can both affect and be affected by spirits and ghosts that most of us never notice. Also, she becomes a highly desirable pawn for all other sorts of people who would like to access the Grey and its contents on occasion.
Not a bad premise, but the book could have been a lot more than it was.
Harper is SO skeptical that it takes her half of the book to accept something the average reader has figured out by the end of the first couple chapters. She has been through a fairly traumatic experience when all of this weird stuff starts, but after talking with Ben and Mara the first time and hearing some sort of semi-coherent explanation for recent events, and after seeing Albert the ghost, I would think a rational person would listen to what Ben and Mara have to say and start taking a lot of notes. Instead, Harper does a world class job of convincing herself It's Not Really Real, or It's All In Her Head, or It's Just Aftereffects Of The Injury.
Which brings me to the writing style. Yes, first person narrative can be a very dynamic and engaging way to write a novel. But this is not a good example of a fast-paced first person narrative.
- The VERY DETAILED descriptions of encounters with the Grey got so repetitive that I started skipping entire paragraphs because there was no new information and no new descriptions of what she was seeing. Again and again, we got a description of fog with a smell like corpses. Sometimes there would be creatures or ghosts within the fog, but the description of those was pretty fleeting, and it was back to more fog.
- There are a lot of things that could have been done to tighten up the writing, like saying "there was the fog, looking exactly like it had last time" or "after two days, I was getting tired of all this fog, so I went back to see Ben & Mara again because they were starting to make more sense than anything else I could think of". But no, we get multiple pages describing every single encounter with the fog over those two days. All the while the reader wants to scream "you ninny!!! Go back and talk to Ben and Mara about what is going on, IT'S OBVIOUSLY NOT GETTING BETTER ALL ON ITS OWN!"
- In another example, the description of her fight with the man who tried to kill her went on entirely too long and in way too much detail. Yes, it was awful. Yes, it hurt a lot. Yes, she died (for a little while) at the end of it. That whole part could have summarized as "I had been beaten so badly I died for two minutes in an elevator" and the novel would have been just as good, or maybe even better.
If Richardson could tighten up her writing, vary her descriptions a bit more when they ARE necessary, and give her heroine a bit less skepticism and a bit more common sense, this could be an outstanding series.
I do plan to give the second novel a chance, and here's hoping Harper hits the ground running the second time around.