Nash Baxter is a rough and rugged James Bond. He even talks like Bond. In one scene, while ordering food in a small and nearly empty Illinois town, Nash introduces himself to a waitress named Carol by cooing, “Nash. Nash Baxter.” This tough-guy introduction is the best indication of what is in store for the readers of this novel.
Michael Scott Hopkins’ THE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH combines the supernatural with two-fisted action. Baxter is a motorcycle-riding and freelance ghost hunter who has made a career out of debunking the paranormal. Baxter is the heart and soul of this book, and what a tortured soul he is. A foul-mouthed man with a bad habit of lying, he has built his business on selling something that he does not believe, namely that most ghosts and hauntings are not real. Baxter is a believable and believably rough-hewn ghost hunter who speaks in the patois of working class America. The other characters in the novel are similarly well-drawn, from working stiff police officers to the classic femme fatale Evelyn Blankenship.
This book never slows down for a minute. The action starts right away with the simple implication that people are out to get Baxter. Next, after some exposition about his background and internal conflict, Baxter’s relationship with Evelyn opens up the possibility that ghosts, goblins, and ghouls are not what we think they are. The same goes for Hell—that fiery pit were the damned lie forever. Baxter’s journey of uncomfortable discovery is mirrored by the reader, who is forced along for the infernal thrill ride. The world is painted black in THE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH, and yet the novel has a surprisingly heart-warming ending that is nothing less than unexpected.
Without question the best aspects of this novel are Baxter and the portrayal of the ever-popular culture of ghost hunting. Baxter is a great everyman character with more than a passing whiff of the charlatan. This is a good summation of the ghost hunting world itself, and both are exposed and tentatively celebrated in this fun novel.
THE THINGS IN HEAVEN AND EARTH is a thrill ride of a mystery novel–a slug and shot of testosterone that works eminently well with its spooky plot concerning a demonic threat to the world at large.
~Benjamin Welton for IndieReader