In Ken Harmon’s The Paranormalist, Quinn Westerly’s father, an FBI agent, dies in what is characterized as a murder/suicide involving immolation. She does not believe that her father could be part of such a horrible crime, but the agency considers the matter closed. Running out of options and determined to cover all bases, Quinn contacts Evan Cordell, a psychiatrist with a dark past who understands what Quinn is up against. He’d like to help her find answers, and he’d like to protect her. But Cordell the paranormalist knows the latter may be impossible. No one controls the dark side.
Ken Harmon writes magical realism, a difficult genre to pull off. Elements of whimsy (Lightfoot the ghost operates as a comic foil), naturalism (a detailed, realistic depiction of the world), and surrealism (dreamlike imagery), coupled with elements of horror. That’s a lot to juggle. Harmon pulls it off beautifully by focusing on his two lead characters—two flawed, damaged people struggling against the hidden world.
Harmon’s prose is straight-forward, firmly anchored in the real world, which draws the reader into his dark fantasy. The depiction of the shadow world is clever and consistent—Harmon is an expert at world-building. As for the ending, I’ll just say that the gruesome close was emotionally satisfying and worthy of the horror elements of the tale. The Paranormalist is satisfying on every level. (Five stars out of five)