Ghost in the Park by Ray Melnik fits into a category all its own – one could call it paranormal science mixed with some romance. Sami has just long his young wife, a woman with a turbulent past. Meanwhile, Noah Braxton is working on a scientific experiment, which leads to some unpredictable results – the main outcome is loved ones coming back from the dead in a nearby park. Sami is able to reconnect with Amber and express his great loss to her, only before Noah’s experiment becomes even more unpredictable.
The strongest element in the book is its focus on science, lending the paranormal story a deeper realism. Noah is using instruments from SciLab to discover the possible makeup of dark matter, leading to a lot of interesting discussion about scientific discovery, and what has yet to be discovered. Melnik deftly weaves these headier moments with Sami’s story about losing his wife. Melnik is a deeply empathetic writer, and the passages about Sami’s mourning and love for his life are heartfelt and affecting.
The book does suffer from some organizational issues. As the book switches between different characters, there aren’t chapter breaks between the different voices, so the reader may not realize that a new scene is with a different character – especially in the early going, when each character is being established. There are also a fair number of grammatical errors – most often a misuse of a comma, or missing quote mark.
The main trouble with the book is it comes to a conclusion very quickly – really just as the crux of the story is getting started. This is in some way a testament to Melnik’s storytelling. As a reader, you’re invested in these characters and want to see how Sami and Amber’s situation is resolved, as well as Noah’s experiment, and it comes to a very quick close. It’s no doubt a page-turning book with a riveting premise, so by book’s end you’re wanting more.
Tacked onto the end of the book are a couple of pieces about the nature of God, which are also very short, given the subject. Again, Melnik’s ideas are provocative and well-conceived, but he has a lot of room where he could spread his wings and write a lot more than he has here. It’s admirable he’s taking on such big subjects in this book – God, science, love, the nature of reality, and the paranormal – but they are such big issues that they need a fuller treatment than he gives within this short book.
Make no mistake, what Melnik provides here is gripping and fascinating – a thought-provoking and original read. It’s just thin on the details once the elements of the story are put into place. He spends a lot of time outlining the science behind Noah’s experiments, and then only a few scenes with Amber and Sami reuniting, which is really core to the story. There’s a great novel in here waiting to come out, and hopefully Melnik adds more to this story at a later date – whether it’s a sequel or fleshing out this book into a longer work.
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