During every morning commute, Rick D’Angelo is entranced by one thing—an apartment. It captures his attention and imagination each day, and when he sees a FOR RENT sign, he can’t stop himself from filling out an application. Soon, Rick and his boyfriend, Ernie, are the apartment’s new tenants; just as quickly, Rick is sharing his home and mind with visions of a skeletal young man with sad brown eyes. When Rick learns from their neighbor that the sad-eyed specter is Tommy, a previous tenant who disappeared, he’s compelled to figure out the mystery. For his sake as well as Tommy’s, Rick will do whatever it takes to find peace for them both.
Wounded Air is an unapologetically frank tale about addiction and recovery—who it hurts, its consequences, and the selfishness inherent in each—wrapped in an atmospheric paranormal mystery. The book basically delivers what the blurb says is in the tin: Rick and Ernie move into an apartment whose previous occupants (Tommy and Karl) were “good boys” whose love for each other and lives were destroyed by drug abuse. Rick is seeing what he believes to be Tommy’s ghost and needs to find out what happened. The only real creative license is the “confrontation with a restless spirit” bit that suggests more horror action than there is.
It’s also another Reed story where I find the dead character more interesting than the MC. As a character, Rick is simply the medium through which the invisible suffering and trauma of drug addiction and recovery is delivered. He’s given enough dimension and personality to avoid being flat, while still allowing him to be a mostly empty vessel to take in and impart Tommy and Karl’s story. Thus, I suppose it makes sense the tentative friendship Rick strikes up with their neighbor Paula has more substance than his 9-year relationship with Ernie (who might as well not be there). Paula is integral to Rick’s quest and an understanding ear for the supernatural happenings, since Ernie is the skeptic. However, to me, Rick’s lack of development isn’t necessarily a bad thing as Reed deftly utilizes him to tell the story, and Rick’s role as a blank slate is brought back around in the end to address issues in Rick’s own life and how he lives it.
As a whole, Wounded Air is well-paced, engaging, and tonally consistent. Reed doesn’t allow the story to get bogged down in the whys and hows, but it’s not done in a cheap or hand-wavey way. The explanation works for the characters and story, and there are only a couple instances where Reed may have gotten a little too caught up in the spookiness of a scene to realize it raises a few questions that don’t get answered. Other than that, it’s a solid paranormal mystery. If you are looking for a romance or a ghost/horror story saturated in ghoulish imagery and terrorizing the MC(s), you will not find that in Wounded Air. However, if you are in the mood for a haunting, atmospheric tale whose horrors lie mostly in the tragedy of lost potential and lives, desperation, and despair, I recommend giving Wounded Air a try.