2014 Review: Ghost Detective

Ghost Detective

Ghost Detective

Zachary Muswagon

(Published by Eschia Books Inc.)

Review by Shari Narine

 

Ghost Detective is an engaging blend of supernatural and whodunit
wrapped around life on the reserve. It could easily have remained a
mystery novel with a twist, but author Zachary Muswagon makes it more as
he explores the conditions on reserves and the reasons that motivate
the antagonists.

Clearly written and easily read, Ghost Detective spins the tale of
the Ghostkeeper cousins, Billy and Dale, both of whom are flawed but
likeable, as they make their way through the unnamed Rez, trying to
piece together the murder of, yes, Billy Ghostkeeper.

Dale is Billy’s reluctant helper, drawn into the fray when Billy
reminds Dale that he saved Dale’s life from gang leader Gar all those
years ago when Dale was in Grade 7.

Ghost Detective also blends the traditional ways with the modern
ways. Billy is helped along by the Crow, his spirit guide. Crotchety
Aunt Kena, who has the Eyes of Fire, can talk to Billy (and others in
the spirit world) directly but Dale has to depend on his Bluetooth for
communication with Billy the ghost.

As the two work their way through the mystery of Billy’s death, two
suspects become clear. First, gang leader Gar. In this way, Muswagon
tackles the issue of the ever-growing problem of gangs on reserves. A
little heavy-handed in his dealing of the topic, Muswagon refers to the
gang members as thugs who are wanna-be great Aboriginal warriors.

The second suspect is DBA Resources executive Grant, whose oil
company pumps so much money into the Rez that Billy, who holds the
position of assistant band compliance officer, turns a blind eye –
initially - to the company’s deadly infractions. Muswagon is blatant in
slamming big oil for its unethical behaviour and its never-failing
pursuit of the dollar.

DBA Resources is so bad that at one point a dead Billy is confronted
by the ghosts of two children, who died of leukemia and who lived at a
house where Billy fudged water and air emission sample results. Muswagon
also takes an anti-government stand, with Grant telling Dale that even
if Billy had damning information against the company, the government
would not shut down a multinational billion dollar corporation,
regardless of deaths.

But of course, no whodunit is complete without a twist and Ghost Detective offers just that.

And more.  Muswagon examines the conditions on the reserves, pointing
to housing on Attawapiskat First Nation, and the attitudes of the
public towards the deaths of Aboriginal people, naming the Pickton
murders as one example.

But all is not lost for Billy. Before his death, Billy is on the road
to redemption and in his death, he finds forgiveness from the two
children he inadvertently led to their deaths, and he also connects with
his cousin. Billy realizes that he has been selfish and points out to
Dale, that while the younger cousin is a poser, he’s also a good guy who
has stepped up to help Billy out more than he needed to. Billy learns
to control his ghost body and understand his role in the spirit world in
time to help solve his murder and get the help of Aunt Kena to rescue
Dale.

Ultimately, Ghost Detective is about trying to balance the
traditional ways of caring for the land and the people with moving
forward and providing for the people on the reserve. Can that happen?
Says spirit guide Bear to Crow, “We’re moving in the right direction,
but we still have a long way to go.”