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The Mystery of Grace    by Charles de Lint order for
Mystery of Grace
by Charles de Lint
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2009 (2009)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Charles de Lint's The Mystery of Grace is quite a departure from his usual gritty urban fantasy. Its premise reminded me somwhat of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones. Like Sebold's Susie Salmon, Altagracia 'Grace' Quintero is in an afterlife limbo, still influencing the world she has left. Unlike Susie, Grace's limbo is not formed from her own life, but is under another's control.

Grace, a skilled mechanic with a passion for customizing hot rods and a shoulder tattoo (among others) of Nuestra Seņora de Altagracia, is killed senselessly in a robbery at Luna's Food Market, while still grieving over the death of her beloved Abuelo who 'lived and breathed cars.' She awakens in a limbo contained in a few blocks around the Alverson Arms, where she had her apartment while alive. Other ghosts - both alert and comatose - are there before her. Street kid Conchita befriends Grace and tells her of the Day of the Dead (Halloween), when she will be able to cross back to the world of the living, but will not be recognized by any who knew her before.

When Grace ventures back, she meets and falls in love with John Burns. The feeling is mutual. He wonders why she disappears (literally) from his life and eventually discovers what has happened to his new love. In parallel, Grace and Conchita investigate their odd limbo world and discover the powerful force that is holding all the ghosts who died in the vicinity of the Alverson Arms there. They fight back, but ultimately it's Grace's empathy, compassion - and her ability to face the truth about her own motivations - that wins their release.

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