Molly Tanzer, author of Vermillion, in her blurb for Holly Messinger’s upcoming novel The Curse of Jacob Tracy, says “The weird western renaissance is upon us!” Pretty high praise for a debut fantasy novel. If, like me, you’re a fan of the Weird Western, I think it might be rewarding to pay attention to this one.
St. Louis in 1880 is full of ghosts — mangled soldiers, tortured slaves, the innocent victims of war — and Jacob Tracy can see them all. Ever since Antietam, when he lay delirious among the dead and dying, Trace has been haunted by the country’s restless spirits. The curse cost him his family, his calling to the church, and damn near his sanity. He stays out of ghost-populated cities as much as possible these days, guiding wagon trains West with his pragmatic and skeptical partner, Boz.
Then, just before the spring rush, Trace gets a letter from the wealthy and reclusive Sabine Fairweather. Sickly, sharp-tongued, and far too clever for her own good, Miss Fairweather needs a worthy man to retrieve a dead friend’s legacy from a nearby town — or so she says. When the errand proves far more sinister than advertised, Miss Fairweather admits to knowing about Trace’s curse, and suggests she might be able to help him — in exchange for a few more odd jobs.
Trace has no interest in being her pet psychic, but he’s been searching eighteen years for a way to curb his unruly curse, and Miss Fairweather’s knowledge of the spirit world is too tempting to ignore. As she steers him into one macabre situation after another, his powers flourish, and Trace begins to realize some good might be done with this curse of his. But Miss Fairweather is harboring some dark secrets of her own, and her meddling has brought Trace to the attention of something much older and more dangerous than any ghost.
The Curse of Jacob Tracy will be published by Thomas Dunne Books on December 1, 2015. It is 320 pages, priced at $25.99 in hardcover and $12.99 for the digital edition.