"Ghost Of A Chance" is the first novel in the Ghost Finders-series by Simon R. Green, and as I'm a fan of his work, it was a no-brainer for me to buy this urban-fantasy action adventure story. But being a fan doesn't mean I can't be critical when he produces a real stinker. While this one isn't (quite) that bad, it is way below par, especially when compared to his Nightside- or Secret Histories-series.
The basic concept has a lot of potential: you've got these so-called Ghost Finders, a British version of the Ghostbusters, only these are agents of the Carnacki Institute, a run-of-the-mill Secret Agency whose main task is to hunt things that go bump in the night while keeping a stiff upper lip. The team: first there's the intellectual J.C. Chance, who is supposed to be a rather suave leader but comes across as an annoying, overtly-optimistic jerk. Then there's the kinky techno-geek Melody Chambers, more interested in high tech gadgetry than people, and the class-11 telepath "Happy" Jack Palmer, who's so neurotic he's constantly popping pills to keep his badly battered nerves under control.
The plot in a nutshell: JC's three-agent team gets sent on a mission is to help solve a problem in London's Underground at Oxford Circus Station. Something has gone horribly wrong there, as commuters have disappeared and it seems that the trains down there have started eating people. Indeed, there's Something down there: an ancient and powerful Lovecraftian-type Being that is threatening to break through to our universe, and it's up to our hapless trio to kick its ectoplasmic behind. But there's another big problem: the rival team from the Crowley Institute, the evil counterpart of the Carnacki Institute, that wants to utilize the paranormal for their own selfish ends.
On the negative side of the ledger: Although I usually like Green's hyperbole style of writing, in this book it was at times so excessive that it started to grate. And the characters didn't have much appeal either. Even by the end of the novel, I still couldn't bring myself to really like them. They have only a few character traits, and we get reminded about these ad-nauseam. Tellingly, it was the "evil team" I found most interesting. And then the way J.C. Chance fell in love with that ghostly lady at first sight... utterly unbelievable.
On the plus side: As I mentioned above, the character dynamics remind me of "Ghostbusters," one of my favorite movies, and the never-ending banter between the characters is at times very comedic. Besides the rather slow start, the storytelling is fast-paced and Green has created an interesting world. It has his usual camp and punny humor. And there are some other fun bits as well: did anyone catch the inside jokes, like that the Carnacki Institute is a direct reference to William Hope Hodgson's Carnacki the Ghostfinder? Or that the Crowley Institute references Aleister Crowley, the English occultist and writer?
Final verdict: it has the basics of what could have been a good book (hence my review-title "ghost of a book") but ultimately, even as a spoof of traditional horror novels, "Ghost Of A Chance" doesn't really work. Thus the two-stars.