I have two words to describe GHOSTS OF MANHATTAN by British science-fiction writer George Mann: PURE PULP! I finished reading this page-turner yesterday evening and I absolutely loved it!
The story is set in New York City in 1926 but this is not the New York City we all know and love. This is an alternate universe NYC, a world where the United States and Great Britain are bitter enemies (following World War I) and are engaged in a Cold War. It's a world of steam powered automobiles and holographic projection devices instead of telephones. Immense dirigibles float above the city along with rocket launched biplanes.
Into this brave new world strides The Ghost, a mysterious masked vigilante armed with sophisticated weaponry including a device that spews explosive razor sharp pellets and mini-rocket boosters strapped to his boots that allow limited flight. The Ghost is really Gabriel Cross, a WWI veteran who witnessed something unspeakable and otherworldly during the course of the conflict in Europe. He lives a double life, debauched playboy by day, grim man hunter by night. He fights a one-man war against the forces of evil but this time out, he needs some help.
The Ghost and police inspector Felix Donovan team-up to tackle The Roman, a mysterious mob boss who is leaving a trail of murdered businessmen across Manhattan. The Roman also has his sights set on Celeste Parker, the beautiful night-club jazz singer who has stolen Cross's heart. The Roman uses giant golems (part moss, part mechanical) along with his army of thugs in his reign of terror. An ancient marble wheel with weird inscriptions carved into the surface plays a part in the quest and everything comes to a shattering climax in a showdown with a Lovecraftian monster from beyond.
Mann keeps things moving at a brisk pace. There's an action set piece in almost every chapter but there's also characterization of the main players. The action ranges from shootouts and car chases to a spectacular biplane dogfight which takes place among the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
The last pages of the book lead directly into the next Ghost adventure, GHOSTS OF WAR. I haven't read it yet but you can bet I will do so as fast as possible.
If you love pulp adventure in the tradition of The Shadow and The Spider, this one's for you. The Ghost is a terrific character, his world is well-realized and the action is furious and bloody. I cannot recommend this one highly enough. Four stars and both thumbs up. Don't miss this one!