Title: Between Ghosts
Author: Garrett Leigh
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 246 Pages
At a Glance: Between Ghosts wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t my favorite of Leigh’s books, but it was still very, very good.
Reviewed By: Jules
Blurb: In 2003, journalist Connor Regan marched through London to add his voice to a million others, decrying the imminent invasion of Iraq. Eight months later, his brother, James, was killed in action in Mosul.
Three years on, Connor finds himself bound for Iraq to embed with an elite SAS team. He sets his boots on the ground looking for closure and solace—anything to ease the pain of his brother’s death. Instead he finds Sergeant Nathan Thompson.
Nat Thompson is a veteran commander, hardened by years of combat and haunted by the loss of his best friend. Being lumbered with a civilian is a hassle Nat doesn’t need, and he vows to do nothing more than keep the hapless hack from harm’s way.
But Connor proves far from hapless, and too compelling to ignore for long. He walks straight through the steel wall Nat’s built around his heart, and when their mission puts him in mortal danger, Nat must lay old ghosts to rest and fight to the death for the only man he’s ever truly loved.
Review: Connor is floundering after his brother’s death in Mosul, and desperately needs to do something to help himself make sense of it. Ultimately, he works his butt off for three years, training to get prepared for an assignment as a journalist with The Guardian, embedded with Charlie-3, a Special Forces unit heading out on another mission in Iraq. Sent to report on the humanitarian efforts the military is making over there, Connor ends up seeing and learning much more than he bargained for.
I liked Connor very much. He is extremely sharp and insightful, and his attention to detail comes in handy on more than one occasion. Connor is fascinated by Nat, not to mention the attraction and pull he feels towards him, and Nat is equally drawn to Connor. My only complaint about the book is that I didn’t feel a strong connection to the guys. Especially Nat. This author is usually aces at character development. I have felt a draw toward the characters in every one of her books; I’ve never felt that missing connection before. But here we learn very little about Nat aside from what’s in the blurb. And, the foundation for their romance didn’t really start to take hold for me until closer to the end. The attraction and physical chemistry were there, for the most part, but the love story was lacking—I think because we just didn’t know them that well.
Never fear, though, there was MUCH to love! This is a Garrett Leigh book…and Garrett Leigh’s books, no matter the subject, no matter the style of the story or the characters, always have such a strong sense of realism. I never question any direction she takes things, or whether any of it is rooted in fact. Most of Between Ghosts takes place on various battlefields, with Charlie-3 literally under fire or in the briefing room planning the stages of their mission—places I assume the author has never been. And yet, I couldn’t get over how real it all felt or how riveted I was. The two main threads of the storyline—finding and stopping the trail of weapons being filtered into Basra, and the hunt for insurgent cell leader, Abdullah Behrouz—were melded together perfectly. I was definitely sucked into the setting.
I also loved all the other soldiers. Aside from Nat, Charlie-3 was made up of Wedge, Marc, Bobs, and Chris, who were all lovely guys and were really great to Connor. I also really enjoyed how the author brought Pogo into the story. Pogo was Nat’s best friend who was recently lost in the war, and we’re able to get a glimpse of him through a handful of ‘memories’ of Nat’s. It was a great device; I would have loved to see more of it. And, as usual, there was some fabulously descriptive and vivid writing, and some moments to make you think or to squeeze your heart. This rare peek into Nat’s soul gave us one of those moments:
Violence and death had become monotonous and grey, but beneath it all he remembered the colour and life of the village children in Sierra Leone, dancing in the dirt as he handed them sweets, and the resilience of the elderly women tending burned-out farms in Kosova, showing British troops how to mend fences with fallen tree branches. Trouble was, those conflicts had held a purpose, an endgame, but this war? Fuck, he’d been fighting it so long and lost so much, the only end he could see with any clarity was his own.
I loved that bit, not only because we get a glimpse inside of Nat, but also because it’s one of many thought-provoking comments on the war.
Between Ghosts wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t my favorite of Leigh’s books, but it was still very, very good. I liked the guys. I loved all the British slang. And the backdrop of Iraq and the fighting there was intriguing and powerful. I’m a massive fangirl of her work, and would absolutely recommend picking this one up!
You can buy Between Ghosts here: