Oct 212015

Cover for Holly Messinger's The Curse of Jacob Tracy. The title on paper like an Old West wanted poster. Above, bats flying in front of a full moon. Below, the silhouettes of two cowboys surrounded by ghostly figures.Publishers Weekly: Stellar writing and a strong story define Messinger’s amazing debut. After Jacob “Trace” Tracy nearly died at Antietam during the Civil War, he became connected to the spirit world. He tries to hide his ability to see the dead, working as a hired hand guiding wagon trains out West in the late 1880s. When a girl is accused of murder, Trace is lured into using his gifts to protect the innocent, but the cost is high. Messinger’s writing is a clinic on how to immerse the reader in a historic setting (such as his details on how 19th-century newspapers operated) without drowning readers in facts. Psychological and visceral horror mix in set pieces that build to a climax as Trace is forced to confront his fears about his abilities. Trace and his partner, Boz, quickly endear themselves to the reader, bantering and battling in a manner clearly inspired by the old Weird Tales; their interracial friendship (Trace is white and Boz is black) is well written. Though there’s a satisfying closure to Trace’s arc, this should be the start of many more Weird Western adventures.