Silent Night, Haunted Night, the latest addition to Terri Garey's rollicking Nicki Styx series, could be subtitled, Nicki's Nightmare Before Christmas. The fourth contribution to the series starts out in the bedroom...sadly, for Nicki, it's because she's being visited by three PtB (Powers that Be) that aren't interested in redemption, ala Mr. Dickens' spirits, so much as wreaking havoc and revenge. Kate, Mara and Selene, otherwise known as The Fates, work as a trio to make Nicki's life a living hell. Selene works through dreams and manipulations to ensnare seduce and steal Joe from Nicki, making it a blue Christmas for our favorite pink-haired ghost whisperer. To complicate things further, Nicki must also try to help a hopeless ghost deal with her own actions in life, so she may escape the Darkness waiting to take her, and possibly Nicki.
Once again, Nicki is thrust into the uncomfortable position of examining her life and relationships through the skewed view provided by her "special gift." Unlike the last book, this novel takes a bit more time to ramp up to the action, but puts more focus on the human sides of the story. Nicki and Joe are still together, but insecurities and hidden desires bubble beneath the surface of their relationship; this provides just the crack Selene needs to work her magic on Joe. Evan and Butch are still along for the ride, shoring Nicki up and giving her the well shod kick in the ass she needs so she doesn't give into despair. On a side note, it's nice to see the growth of Evan and Butch's relationship; there is genuine love of companionship between the men, and Garey's portrayal of their love is very matter of fact, and therefore it "feels" very real. Readers might also find themselves considering what they define as "good" or "evil" and what deserves forgiveness over eternal damnation.
To my delight, Sammy Devine is not absent from this book. His entry into the story is a bit "middle of the story" but the tale he spins adds a very necessary, and intriguing counter beat to this book. In many ways, Ms. Garey's "Ultimate Bad Boy" steals the scene, whenever he walks onto her stage. Without realizing it, I found myself waiting for his appearance as I read the book; and celebrating in my head when he finally shows up. I'm inclined to say that any writer that can make the Devil their own character; give him a soul; and make you cheer for him, even as he's showing why he IS The Devil, not just a random horny demon, gives readers something special, something worth watching. I'm eagerly awaiting the next offering from Ms. Garey; I need a regular Touch of Divine in my life.
At the heart of this tale, Ms. Garey offers some savvy, subtle commentary on the relationships of women; the stages of life women move through; and how we, as women, can use that feminine power for good or for ill. As she did in the last book, she reminds us, in a more intimate fashion, that ultimately, you'll find good guys and bad guys in any group. You have to decide what you want to bring to the groups you join in your own life. I really enjoy the quick dialog and interaction between Nicki and her inner circle, especially Evan. There is not quite as much of it in this book, as in past stories, but the interactions almost seem to have more impact, due to this. More of this story happens in Nicki's head and heart, than past tales, so it doesn't feel as fast paced as some of the earlier books. However, getting a better glimpse of Nicki's internal struggles gives more insight into this quirky, engaging character.
Ms. Garey once again delivers on all promises. She insures readers will get exactly what they wanted from Santa, this year; especially if Santa traded places with Jack Skelington, to give everyone an early gift.