Review: Ghost Island (Jessica Niemi #4) by Max Seeck

Ghost Island (Ghosts of the Past, #4)Ghost Island by Max Seeck
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Ghost Island is the 4th-installment in Max Seeck’s Jessica Niemi series, also known as the Ghosts of the Past series.

These Nordic Crime novels follow MC, Jessica Niemi, who is a Helsinki Police Detective. Admittedly, this is the first novel that I have picked up in this series, and personally, I feel it worked well as a standalone.

With this being said though, I enjoyed it so much that I intend to go back and read the previous 3-books. I’ve already got the 1st-book, The Witch Hunter, on loan from my library and am excited to start it soon.

I found Jessica to be a very compelling protagonist, and she did refer to some things in her past that I am interested in learning more about. Most specifically, her relationship with an apparent mentor who has since passed away.

In this installment, at the very beginning of the story, Jessica gets in a bit of trouble while leaving a therapy appointment. She gets in an altercation with a belligerent man, who goes so far as to put his hands on her.

Defending herself, Jessica fights back, although in hindsight, she may have taken it a little too far. When video of the incident spreads, Jessica’s supervisor suggests she take some leave to get her head on straight. The Department doesn’t need this type of negative publicity.

Jessica travels to a remote island in the Åland archipelago, where she rents a room at a historic seaside inn. She doesn’t tell anyone in her life where she is going.

Hoping for solitude, Jessica is a bit rattled when a group of elderly travelers arrive, one of them begrudged that Jessica is inhabiting the room she usually stays in.

Jessica learns this group is the last of the ‘birds of spring’, former refugees who fled Finland as children during World War II and lived together for a few months in an orphanage on the island. They return every year, for a reunion of sorts.

The orphanage has been abandoned for years, but the building still exists and local legend has it that one of the orphans, a girl named Maija, who went missing decades before, still haunts the island.

Maija is said to appear, in her signature blue coat, late at night at the end the pier, the last place she was ever seen.

When one of the ‘birds of spring’ is found dead, drowned by the pier, Jessica suspects foul play. She begins to dig into the past of the orphanage and discovers two other deaths that suggest a copycat killer may be on the island.

With inclement weather closing in, making travel an impossibility, Jessica must get to the bottom of this and quickly, before more people end up dead.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this. As mentioned, I hadn’t read the other books and wasn’t sure if that would damper my enjoyment or not.

Nevertheless, this synopsis was intriguing enough for me to want to take the risk and I’m so glad that I did. I was invested in this very early on, as I found Jessica’s character extremely compelling.

I was surprised that this turned out to be a dual timeline, with us getting a huge chunk of the story told via Maija’s perspective, set in the mid-1940s, at the time when she resided at the orphanage.

I am not a big Historical Fiction Reader, but it seemed well done here. Maija’s perspective did manage to keep me engaged and wanting to discover the connections to the present and Jessica’s stay at the property.

This brings me to the setting. I loved it. As someone who lives on a small island, that is remote and difficult to get to, I love island-set stories. It makes it so easy for me to picture just the overall feel of that landscape.

This was made infinitely better by the inclement weather that descends just as the plot is heating up. It brought a claustrophobic feel, as you realize that there is literally no escape for these characters. Someone is dead, and they are stuck. There’s a killer amongst them, but who?

I am an atmosphere girl, first and foremost, and this transported me. I felt like I was there alongside Jessica. I could feel the cold, the wind, the isolation. It was gripping.

My only slight criticism would be, once we got to the big reveal, I felt like the end dragged on a little two long for my tastes. Perhaps, if I had read the earlier books and had more backstory on Jessica I wouldn’t have felt that way, IDK.

Either way, I cannot wait to read the other books in this series and I hope there are more coming. Jessica definitely has a lot of room to grow as character. I feel like there are big things ahead for her.

Thank you to the publisher, Berkley, for providing me a copy to read and review. You’ve hooked me. I’m looking forward to more Jessica Niemi!

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