Friday, April 17, 2020

Thoughts on Let the Ghosts Speak

Hey'a, all! We're halfway through April, and I'm popping back in on the blogosphere to share my thoughts on Bryan Davis's latest book, Let the Ghosts Speak. I originally intended for this to go up last week, but that . . . didn't happen. Anyway. Bryan Davis's new book released on Amazon at the beginning of the month and on his website just this past week, and it is very good. It has the vibe of a book that's going to become a classic that English students at scholars discuss at length but ordinary bookworms can just as easily pick up and enjoy. And I got an ARC, which means I get to share my thoughts on here. So let's get started, shall we? But first, a bit about the book.

Let the ghosts speak—but will the sane heed their counsel?

In 19th century Paris, Justin Trotter, an immigrant from England, is making his way as a book translator while paying for his blind twin sister’s care. One evening, Marc Noël, Justin’s well-to-do friend and fellow thespian, invites him to a masquerade party at an abandoned schoolhouse. Justin hopes this will be an opportunity to get to know Marc’s lovely though sharp-tongued sister, Francine.

At the event, Justin meets four ghostly strangers—two adults and two children—who warn him that the party guests are in danger, and they must leave at once. True to their prediction, a murder takes place, and Justin is the prime suspect. He escapes and becomes a fugitive, hiding in the Paris catacombs.

Mystery and intrigue swirl as the ghost of Joan of Arc and other martyrs guide Justin on a lonely journey to prove his innocence and protect his sister from an abusive caretaker. Who really committed the crime? Marc? Francine? A ghost? And does seeing these ghosts mean he is going insane? Maybe he really is the murderer after all.

There is only one way to find out, to let the ghosts speak as they reveal the mysteries within Justin’s mind.

Find it on: Amazon || Goodreads || Author Site

Thoughts on Let the Ghosts Speak

  1. I absolutely love the writing style. Let the Ghosts Speak is pretty distinct from other Davis books in terms of style. It uses the author-as-translator structure and is styled as being written by Justin, the main character, as an account of what happened to him. This creates a unique tone and overall vibe that feels like a 19th-century classic, which suits the story very well, though it's still quick-paced enough to suit modern readers. The setup also allows for Justin to make asides and provide background in a way that feels very natural, so I enjoyed that. Plus, it's the perfect habitat for Davis's characteristically poetic prose — something that can seem off in his modern stories but fits perfectly in the mouths of these French thespians.
  2. It's kind of all the genres? So that's cool. Let the Ghosts Speak is mostly a combination of mystery, suspense, and drama set in early 1900s France and blended with a distinctly odd brand of ghost story. It also has a distinct magical realism vibe — or, I think it does. I'm not an expert on the genre. And there's some allegory woven in too for good measure. Basically, unless you read exclusively contemporary, this book is quite possibly your genre.
  3. The ghosts are a really cool concept. Side note here: if you're a Bryan Davis fan already and you're concerned about the ghosts, I'd like to know where the pumpernickle you've been. This is hardly Davis's first book to involve some kind of ghost-like being; it's just one of the more obvious ones. But this version of ghosts isn't one I've seen before, and I think it's an interesting take on the idea. It also allows Davis to tell another story featuring Joan of Arc, and this one gives us a little more of the history and legends surrounding her, most of which I hadn't heard of. So, yes, that was interesting.
  4. Regarding characters: they're kind of a mixed bag. Justin falls into the same camp as many of Davis's protagonists, which is to say he's a fallen human trying to be as noble as possible (and usually succeeding) but hindered by the fact that he's kinda oblivious at times. That said, kudos to Davis for giving him an actual plot-related reason for said obliviousness. I am both impressed and amused. The ghost characters were some of the most interesting, in my opinion, and I think Davis handles them well. Among the living, Inspector Fortier was my favorite non-narrator character; he's intelligent without being an over-the-top genius, and like Justin, he's genuinely trying to do the right thing even when it's difficult.
  5. Ok, yes, it's weird. You've got ghosts, you've got mystery, you've got murder, you've got maybe-magic, you've got no idea who's lying and who's telling the truth, what's real and what isn't . . . and then you get to the end and you realize that a solid chunk of the book may have been an allegory as well as a regular story (and wonder why you didn't realize it sooner) . . . yeah. It's weird. But given that it's by the same man who's written about music-powered travel between parallel worlds, dragons-turned-humans hiding in modern America, and the whole situation in Reapers, weird is certainly not an insult (or an unusual condition) when it comes from Davis.
Have you read Let the Ghosts Speak yet? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what about it sounds most intriguing to you? Please tell me in the comments! (Also, if you're doing Camp NaNo and you're not in my writing group, let me know how that's going!)
Thanks for reading!
-Sarah Pennington


  1. I haven't read Let the Ghosts Speak, but it sounds super interesting! (Is it an unreliable narration, if he's wondering if he maybe is the murderer?) Actually, I haven't read any Brian Davis yet, which is a shame because I've heard a lot of bloggers mention them.

    How did Camp go for you, Sarah? I didn't reach my goal, but I am very very close to writing THE END, which is an exciting first for me! (sad, I know xD)

    And I've just tagged you -here-, if you were interested in a LotR thing! (I know you did something similar six years ago, but I'm sure you've met a few new characters since then! ;)

    1. Bryan Davis is great; I highly recommend his books. Some of his older ones can be a bit heavy-handed with themes and descriptive prose, but they're still very good.

      Camp went well! I hit my goal a few days ahead of time, and I made good progress on everything I needed to work on!

      I saw that tag before I saw your comment; thank you very much!


I'd love to hear your thoughts! But remember: it pays to be polite to dragons.