So I’ve been wondering for a while why it seems to be that there can’t be ghost stories for grown-ups that don’t involve detailed often gory horror and/or a lot of unnecessary personal (self-inflicted at least partially most often) angst or troubles. Seannan McGuire’s Ghost Roads series comes close, but that’s only 2 (as of right now) books. I fine with tension and spooky and supernatural, but so much of what’s out there right now is too far into the brands of horror that I don’t much enjoy. Ghost Squad is juvenile fiction (library placement, middle grade label in a bookstore maybe?) and it does things right, but because it’s a kids book it doesn’t develop some of the things that adult me would have really appreciated.
What I like about what it does have: the cultural background is interesting since it presents a reasonably familiar concept like being able to see ghosts but includes the specifically Dominican-Florida touches that make it unique. A lot of the characters are like this as well, familiar but with a little touch of something interesting, like the single dad who tries his best but has some struggles Simon, the daughter Luce (heroine) who has a special skill, the spunky best friend Syd, the knowing older lady (Syd’s grandmother Babette), and of course Chunk the cat who might just be a little magical. Again, same goes for the plot: Luce and Syd are trying to help figure out a way to help Simon get his business going stronger (he does ghost tours around St. Augustine FL) so that the bank doesn’t foreclose on the house, and accidentally set something nasty loose which they must then confront, and saving the world/ important life lesson learning ensues.
What I wish there were more of are the historical and cultural detail, both of the actual St Augustine area as well as the workings of the ghost and magical worlds; the firefly spirit/ghosts are pretty intriguing to me and I’d like to know more about that tradition, be it real or imaginary. There ae also some bits of the story that feel rushed; the reveal about the villain and their motives for example could really use more depth given how Scooby-Doo it feels as is; seriously, there’s a Scooby-Doo Halloween/fall-set movie that this book reminds me of pretty strongly. There’s even at least one direct Scooby reference in the book, so even though there’s probably some intentional allusions, developing that a bit more could have things so much more entertaining; not that it isn’t already, but like I said, it could have been more.