I found New York City labyrinthine and intimidating when I went there for some TV interviews in 2010. My unease would have tripled had I found myself among the ghosts, ghouls and goddesses of Spektor, Manhattan’s undead district – but I’m not Pandora English.
The Spider Goddess is Tara Moss’ second paranormal thriller, and it sparkles with even more imagination and wit than its predecessor, The Blood Countess. As a plucky journalist with psychic tendencies, Pandora is instantly likeable, and her escapades make the readers laugh and their skin crawl, often simultaneously. Her romance with the long-dead soldier who haunts her apartment and her crush on a thousand-year old sanguine (“vampire” is considered an offensive term) are teasing, heart-warming and heartbreaking all at once.
With knowing jabs at the fashion industry and an encyclopaedic knowledge of myths and legends (Pandora scatters grains of uncooked rice to distract the obsessive-compulsive sanguines, who can’t help but count them) the book is also steeped in New York’s rich history. In one of the more unnerving scenes, Pandora looks up to see a burning ghost suspended in the air, who hurled herself from a window during the Triangle Shirtwaist fire of 1911 and has been plummeting ever since.
I consider myself a firm sceptic. I don’t believe in ghosts or psychics. Just the same, I expect to feel even more unsettled the next time I end up in Manhattan.