Ghosts of Manhattan is the first in a new series placed in the same world as Mann's Newbury & Hobbes only pushed into the future late 1920s. I enjoyed Mann's The Affinity Bridge, quite a bit, which is why I had to read Ghosts as soon as I nabbed a copy. With Ghosts of Manhattan Mann goes for the pulp comic feel of the early 20th century instead of a Shelockian pastiche he did so well. Mann's NYC is a version gorgeously accentuated set in a time period I love where Gangsters, big guns, and fast talking women rule. Mann succeeds fairly well especially with the action sequences, but there are some issues which boggled me quite a bit. Either way I did find myself enjoying the book even more than the Newbury series, which had to do a lot with the setting and dark nature of the characters.
Ghosts of Manhattan is like the dirty love child of H.P. Lovecraft and Bob Kane's Batman circa 1920s with flappers and prohibition in which The Ghost is after mob boss The Roman. Mann strings us along for a few chapters about the identity of the hero known as The Ghost, but I wish he had pushed it a bit further to really nail the separate personalities down a bit more. The mysterious Roman as an arch nemesis worked for the first half of the book along with his nefarious minions doing his bidding, but by the time he got directly involved he lost his ominous and dangerous presence even when finally taking center stage. The Ghost still manages quite a few hold-your-breath battles with clockwork Golems, loads of mobsters, and big gun fights that will more than keep you flipping the pages.
The Ghost himself is an also an intriguing character with his history and inventing capabilities, which have enabled him to create some interesting, if not buggy, gadgets along his way as a dark vigilante. Though there are some major problems with the narrative. Mann had the habit of holding out too much on the reader to the point when big plot points are revealed they didn't entirely fit in with what had been covered. For one the main love interest Celeste is left far too vague and when her history and connections are revealed it doesn't seem to make sense. A clue or two more would have helped. This also plays into the problems with not enough revealed about the main villain until the very end, which makes part of the plot feel too thin.
Overall, I recommend Ghosts of Manhattan with some reservations, but it will take hardly anytime to read as it zooms by with breakneck speeds at times and the stylization of the world and most characters is well done. If you're a steampunk fan looking for something a little bit different Ghosts of Manhattan is well worth checking out. Mann has done an admirable job of pushing the steam into the 20th century.
Ghosts of Manhattan is an adventurous pulp style story with shades of The Shadow, The Phantom Detective, and even a little of the noir side of Batman: The Animated Series. The world and story definitely lend themselves to a comic book audience, which may have been a better medium for it. The Cthulhu type universe intrigues me greatly, which I hope is further explored in future installments. I give Ghosts of Manhattan 7 out of 10 hats. I'll definitely be there for the sequel and I still have the second Newbury book The Osiris Ritual beckoning at me from the to-read shelf.
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