Book review: The Broken Ones by Stephen M. Irwin

“The Broken Ones” by Stephen M. Irwin depicts the world falling apart because of some supernatural force, in some near future when no one is completely sane.
BY BETTY LYTLE Published: August 19, 2012
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“The Broken Ones” (Random House, $26), by Stephen M. Irwin, depicts the world falling apart because of some supernatural force, in some near future when no one is completely sane.

On a day known as Gray Wednesday, the Earth's poles suddenly switch, causing mass chaos. In addition to food shortages and unemployment, everyone has a ghost. Sometimes the ghost is someone known, but not always.

Having a ghost with empty black holes for eyes constantly staring mournfully at them is causing people to commit suicide and murder at an alarming rate.

A special unit has been created in the police department to exonerate people who have been driven to murder by their ghosts. Detective Oscar Mariani heads the unit, called the Nine-Ten. It investigates a procession of occult alibis for violent crimes, such as “My dead husband made me do it.” This has become the newest get-out-of-jail-free card, and the Nine-Ten unit has an almost zero arrest record.

When the body of a young woman, mutilated and marked with occult signs, turns up, Mariani is convinced her murder is connected to the highest levels of government. He doggedly follows clues to find the killer, while his supervisor and those higher up in the department do their best to get him off the case. Mariani's own ghost, a dead young man who is a stranger to him, may be his only hope.

The author mixes criminal procedure with supernatural elements to create a story filled with suspense and horror.

— Betty Lytle