The Broken Ones - Stephen M. Irwin 3.5 starsThis one's tough to classify. It mostly feels like a detective novel, but then there's the matter of that pesky cataclysmic event. Three years ago the world turned upside down -- literally. The earth's poles switched places and destruction reigned. Planes and satellites fell out of the sky, cars went smashing about, and the worldwide economy fell in the toilet. And oh, by the way, everyone now has a private ghost that never leaves them alone. Cocktail party chatter regularly includes the question, "Who is yours?" -- meaning who is your ghost. Some are dead relatives, some are complete strangers, and their constant presence is driving people to madness.Aussie detective Oscar Mariani is assigned to a unit investigating crimes committed by people whose personal ghosts may have driven them insane. Someone is mutilating and killing young girls in ritualistic fashion. Are they trying to call forth or appease supernatural beings? Along with the murder mystery, there are semi-dystopian elements here, and just a whiff of horror. I was concerned that it might be too gruesome or violent for me, but it's not any worse than other novels of its kind. There are some grisly bits, but nothing felt calculated to gross people out. This is a complex novel, and Irwin juggles his plot eggs admirably most of the time. The character of Oscar Mariani is richly developed. His rogue cop status and the past that haunts him give the story more depth than I'd expected. I did find it hard to keep track of the large cast of minor characters, and found myself flipping back through the pages each time they were mentioned to remember how they fit in. There are also a few holes that interrupted a seamless flow and left me scratching my head. For example, one character is handcuffed with his hands behind his back. Then suddenly he's shooting a gun, with no mention of how he got out of the handcuffs. But these are just quibbles that kept me from rating the book a little higher. Recommended for fans of detective novels with a touch of the supernatural and a mild dystopian flavor. Review copy provided by the publisher.