The Broken Ones

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Overview

Award-winning author Stephen M. Irwin returns with a thrilling, supernatural crime novel built around an intriguing question: What happens when every single person is haunted by a ghost only they can see?

Without warning, a boy in the middle of a city intersection sends Detective Oscar Mariani's car careening into a busy sidewalk. The scene is bedlam as every person becomes visited by something no one else can see. We are all haunted. Usually, the apparition is someone known: a ...

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The Broken Ones: A Novel

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Overview

Award-winning author Stephen M. Irwin returns with a thrilling, supernatural crime novel built around an intriguing question: What happens when every single person is haunted by a ghost only they can see?

Without warning, a boy in the middle of a city intersection sends Detective Oscar Mariani's car careening into a busy sidewalk. The scene is bedlam as every person becomes visited by something no one else can see. We are all haunted. Usually, the apparition is someone known: a lost relative, a lover, an enemy. But not always. For Oscar Mariani, the only secret that matters is the unknown ghost who now shares his every waking moment . . . and why.

The worldwide aftershock of what becomes known as "Gray Wednesday" is immediate and catastrophic, leaving governments barely functioning and economies devastated . . . but some things don't change. When Detective Mariani discovers the grisly remains of an anonymous murder victim in the city sewage system, his investigation will pit him against a corrupt police department and a murky cabal conspiring for power in the new world order.

Stephen M. Irwin has created an unforgettable crime novel and an intense, textured vision of the near-future. The Broken Ones is the riveting search for hope in the darkest corners of the imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

If the characters in this near-future fiction feel that everything has been turned upside down, they have some justification: On the day commemorated as "Gray Wednesday," the poles of the earth suddenly switched, leaving governments in disarray and economies reduced to rubble. Individuals now suffer from a more immediate problem: Each of them is now accompanied constantly by a ghost, invisible to all others. In this maelstrom of uncertainty, Australian detective Oscar Mariani searches for a serial killer who leaves on a mark of his grim reaper work on every victim. A novel hailed as "genre-bending and imaginative...part fantasy, part supernatural crime thriller; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

Publishers Weekly
Irwin (The Dead Path) works a highly original idea—an unexplained cosmic catastrophe has left everyone in the world haunted by a persistent personal ghost that only they can see—into an engrossing hard-boiled thriller. When Oscar Mariani, a detective with the Nine-Ten Investigation Unit, which specializes in crimes related to the ghost sightings, looks into the brutal mutilation murder of a young woman, he discovers a strange symbol with apparent occult import carved into her flesh. As Oscar follows the trail of clues, a series of related murders suggests that corrupt and entitled parties are attempting a coverup that will threaten Oscar as well. The link between the murders and the ghostly hauntings proves as ingeniously imagined as the novel’s premise. Irwin’s depiction of a world falling apart under the onslaught of supernatural forces, and the desperate measures some will take to remedy it, is one of the more memorable in recent weird fiction. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
Favorite Books of 2012, Chicago Tribune...Best Fiction of 2012: Thrillers, Kirkus Reviews...Best of 2012 Horror, Suspense Magazine

“I was hooked from page one. The protagonist of The Broken Ones is a policeman in Australia, which (in Irwin’s narrative world), has become a different country since a sudden reversal of polarity. This reversal has changed everything: now each live person is haunted by one ghost, visible only to that person. The consequences of this situation utterly change society. Detective Oscar Mariani is still trying to be a good cop in a world that does not appreciate good cops or reward them, and the murders he is determined to solve are horrendous. Intelligent, grim, and challenging.”
New York Times bestselling author Charlaine Harris, on CharlaineHarris.com

"A truly unique and harrowing vision—Irwin's ability to blend genres is as remarkable as his imagination."
LINCOLN CHILD, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

"In this strange and uncanny second novel, Australian author (and filmmaker) Stephen M. Irwin combines the gumshoe fiction of Raymond Chandler and the retro-futurism of "Blade Runner" to concoct a doomsday scenario that feels eerily relevant...No one in this feverish novel emerges unscathed. You may not, either. I couldn't shake the enveloping gloom or lyrical despair of The Broken Ones for days."
Chicago Tribune

"In the striking retro future of this novel, bizarre and familiar comfortably coincide. A flawlessly assembled thriller."
Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

"A well-paced, imaginative story."
The Free Lance-Star

"Blending the supernatural thriller with hard-boiled crime fiction, Australian Irwin, in his second novel, which follows the acclaimed The Dead Path (2010), depicts a bleak future. Three years after Grey Wednesday, on which the earth’s poles suddenly switched, unemployment is rampant, while food and goods are in short supply. Perhaps most devastating of all, however, was the appearance of the ghosts. All are now haunted by the eyeless specters of people they once knew. As a result, suicide and murder rates have skyrocketed, and a unit has been created within the police department to exonerate perpetrators driven to murder by their ghosts. Rumpled, dogged detective Oscar Mariani works in that unit. He is poorly paid, constantly under threat of being shut down, and disrespected by mainstream policemen, many of whom are corrupt. But then he catches the case of a young woman whose body has been badly mutilated and marked with occult signs, and he is convinced her murder is connected to the highest levels of government. How he goes about solving his case while weighed down with guilt over his failed personal relationships provides much of the suspense in a story that also offers cinematic descriptions of a rain-drenched, ruined Brisbane and smoothly incorporated supernatural elements. A unique and thrilling blend of horror and crime."
Booklist (Starred Review) 

"Stephen M. Irwin's new book is a thrilling ride, cementing him as a formidable new talent in fiction."
Book of the Month Club

“Infusing equals parts of horror and crime, The Broken Ones is masterfully written and an entertaining read.”
The Birmingham Times

"Highly original...Irwin’s depiction of a world falling apart under the onslaught of supernatural forces, and the desperate measures some will take to remedy it, is one of the more memorable in recent weird fiction."
Publishers Weekly

“Genre-bending and imaginative, Irwin’s sophomore novel is part fantasy, part supernatural crime thriller. Similar in style and content to the works of Cherie Priest and Richard Matheson, this will appeal to a variety of genre readers who enjoy intelligent fiction that pushes boundaries.”
Library Journal

"Some of the best work being produced across all the art forms in this century derives its quality and its energy from the mixing up of forms and genres... This ambitious novel combines not just two genres, but three, mixing up the conventions of supernatural mystery, police procedural and speculative fiction to produce a futuristic dystopian society that has broken down after an invasion of ghosts, with a hero straight from the hard-boiled school of crime... The writing is at once witty, gritty and grim.  The horrors are genuinely horrible and the imagined scenario is satisfyingly rich and suggestive." 'Pick of the Week'
Sydney Morning Herald

Library Journal
The world is reeling from a natural disaster that occurred a few years earlier. In just one day, Earth's poles shifted to affect climate, agriculture, and governmental infrastructure and setting off a global economic crisis. This event is known as Gray Wednesday, the day when the spectral and living worlds became one. Set in Australia, Irwin's (The Dead Path) novel is a dystopian tale of crime and the supernatural. Each person is haunted by a ghost, someone from his or her past. However, the identity of the ghost that haunts Det. Oscar Mariani is unknown to him. Mariani is no typical cop: he works only with those who claim to have committed their crimes—murders—at the direction of their ghosts. In a haunted world, Mariani must track down a serial killer who is murdering young women and mutilating their bodies with cryptic occult symbols. VERDICT Genre-bending and imaginative, Irwin's sophomore novel is part fantasy, part supernatural crime thriller. Similar in style and content to the works of Cherie Priest and Richard Matheson, this will appeal to a variety of genre readers who enjoy intelligent fiction that pushes boundaries.—Carolann Curry, Mercer Univ. Medical Lib., Macon, GA
Kirkus Reviews
In the strange, devastating aftermath of Gray Wednesday, when the Earth's poles suddenly switched, the world is in even greater chaos, climatic distress and financial ruin than it is now. Not only are people struggling for survival, most of them are shadowed by a ghost. In most cases, it's the ghost of a relative or friend, but for tormented Australian cop Oscar Mariani, the specter is an unknown 16-year-old boy. The son of a storied cop, Mariani works for forever dank and gloomy Brisbane's special Nine-Ten unit, which determines whether a homicide suspect was driven to commit the crime by the maddening presence of a ghost. If so, it's a pardonable offense. Oscar has a vested interest in solving the grisly killing of a girl found ripped apart in a sewage plant, a weird religious symbol carved into her stomach. He has never gotten over the guilt of maiming another teenage girl when he swerved to avoid a boy in the road--the boy, as it turns out, who is now haunting him. When Oscar's dirty superiors order him to back off the case, which involves the abduction, torture and murder of disabled girls from a nursing home, he goes rogue, losing his loyal female partner on the force in the process. It's not enough for him to get beat up, shot and hailed on. In a frightening scene, huge, vulturelike creatures maul him. In the striking retro future of this novel, bizarre and familiar comfortably coincide. A flawlessly assembled thriller.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307744449
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/13/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 953,087
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

STEPHEN M. IRWIN lives in Brisbane, Australia, with his wife and children. He is the author of The Dead Path.

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Read an Excerpt

Excerpted from the Prologue

From page 1, The Argus,
September 10

EDITORIAL
Three Years on—Still No Answers

The ability of humankind to emerge from calamity into better times has manifested again and again throughout our history. The plague-ridden and religiously extreme Middle Ages birthed the Renaissance, the opening of the world by sail, and the Enlightenment’s bright lights of science. Last century’s appalling World Wars, with their unprecedented casualties, spurred discoveries that have yielded extraordinary peacetime benefits: penicillin, rockets, and jet travel. It remains, however, difficult to imagine what reward could come from the dark event that occurred three years ago today, the repercussions of which continue to be felt by each of us, in every corner of the globe.

On that Wednesday—commonly known as Gray Wednesday in the West, Black Wednesday in Russia, and the innocuous Day of Change in the People’s Republic of China—few of us could have predicted how different our world would be today, three years on. None of us could have been expected to; no single event has so definitively tied psychological harm to economic depression and technological failure. The hallmarks of disaster, though, were instantly apparent: at just after 10:00 GMT, the earth’s poles switched. Every compass in the world swung 180 degrees, and two hundred and sixteen passenger jets either collided or simply fell from the skies, with their navigation systems fatally flummoxed. No one knows how many smaller aircraft also fell, but estimates range between seven and sixteen thousand. Almost all post–Cold War satellites met a similar fate, with their onboard computing systems

instantly and simultaneously failing, plunging global telecommunications into a new age of darkness from which we have only barely begun to recover. Few civilian organizations—indeed, few governments—have been able to launch new satellites because of the economic despair that now seems so deeply entrenched that many are regarding it as the new status quo.

We still tell our children that the sun rises in the east and Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, but we all know that north is south and the world is upside down in so many ways. The state of the global economy is dire. Unemployment here remains at 21 percent; in the UK, the USA, and Germany, it is closer to 25 percent. Japan, which was still recovering from nuclear disaster when Gray Wednesday occurred, is worse still, with unemployment at around 30 percent and rising. We don’t know what is occurring everywhere; Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Serbia are among the countries that have sealed their borders. But in those nations which are still attempting to participate in world trade, it is not just their blue-collar industries that have been decimated by depression and suicide: all sectors of all industries were hit hard by Gray Wednesday. The lack of a reliable workforce in the mining sector has resulted in coal shortages and power outages. Oil companies have suffered similarly, resulting in a rapid escalation in the prices of crude oil and refined fuels like gasoline and diesel. Most manufacturing industries have reported significant downturns as a result of erratic supplies of material, power, and workers. Crop and livestock industries are, if anything, even worse off; the rice, tea, coffee, cocoa, and rubber industries have all shrunk enormously in scale, and the resultant explosion in commodities prices has escalated inflation in countries too numerous to mention. With the sharp collapse in the value of legal tender, people everywhere have turned to older-fashioned means of exchange. Black markets have burgeoned, and almost everyone now uses barter at least a little and sometimes exclusively, further reducing governments’ tax incomes. Poorer governments mean poorly paid government workers and a commensurate vulnerability to bribery. The conviction last month of the federal agriculture minister for contempt of Parliament is the tip of a large iceberg. As companies collapse and their surviving contemporaries scramble to fill the voids, graft and blackmail are becoming well-honed tools in all sectors of business.

The challenges to national economies have been worsened by a dramatic shift in global weather patterns in the past thirty-six months. Rain-fall patterns have changed on all continents, and average temperatures have swung by up to seven degrees Fahrenheit: summer heats are rising, and the past three winters in the Northern Hemisphere have been the coldest on record. Climatologists speculate that the cause of this was the switching of the poles, but detailed research may take decades to conduct and unravel. Some people are not prepared to wait that long: in Turkey two years ago, and in South Korea last month, members of religious sects committed suicide on a massive scale—four thousand lives in total. Death on a smaller, more murderous scale occurred in January, when four men and a woman drove a bus packed with explosives through the main gate to the Large Hadron Collider, near Geneva: the explosion killed them and twenty-three staff members.

Nothing, however, has ameliorated the situation that Gray Wednesday has left us in. The federal Commission of Inquiry drags on, now under its second commissioner and still with no tangible results. Government-funded and private policy institutes have made innumerable recommendations to help preserve liquidity and protect jobs, but none have made any inroads toward finding a solution. Our country is not alone; the rest of the world is just as baffled. Our guests that arrived on September 10 three years ago seem fixed to stay; the psychological impact of their arrival may have to be judged by future generations. In the meantime, our economies run flat and our stomachs get emptier. The question remains: Where is the silver lining? Where, in short, is the hope?

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 18, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Very nearly perfect!

    Oscar Mariani is an investigator with the “Barelies”. Let me explain: the Nine-Ten Investigation Unit was created 3 years ago (after Gray Wendesday), and it sounded enough like “nineteen” that it became the Barely Legals, shortened to the “Barelies”. Oscar continually has to endure the indignity of being part of an investigation unit that isn’t taken seriously, and also the ghost of a little boy that’s been haunting him since Gray Wednesday. Gray Wednesday left the world in shambles and in its wake, also left everyone with a ghost of their own.

    Oscar and his partner Neve find the body of a young girl in the sewer system, laid open by an enormous industrial auger. The mutilation wasn’t enough to cover a symbol carved into the girl’s stomach. This case should have been passed to the Homicide unit, but Mariani decides to investigate it himself. Neve isn’t so enthusiastic, and isn’t afraid to show it. She soon puts in for a transfer, but it’s clear that she’s conflicted. As Oscar follows the clues, he begins to uncover something that can only be described as pure evil. At continuous risk of losing his job, the case will take him first to a home for disabled children, the Heights, a sparkling walled enclave where the elite dwell, and finally into an occult underground that will take him nearly beyond his emotional and physical endurance.

    To say that I loved this book would be an understatement. Oscar Mariani is my favorite kind of protagonist: wounded, deeply moral, and determined to see things put right. When Gray Wednesday hit, his ghost appeared in front of him while driving on a busy street, and in trying to avoid what he thought was a real person in front of him, he swerved to avoid him, and struck a young girl. The pain that he carries with him because of this, and its aftermath, is palpable on nearly every page. The author set his story against a future Australia that is broken, dark, and bereft of hope, to nearly all except for the very wealthy. Power is spotty, government support is very limited, and struggling to get by is an understatement.



    Amidst the ruin, Oscar is a beacon, whether he wants to be or not. His quest (and it is a quest) to see things right is fraught with danger and figuring out who can be trusted is no small task. A complicated relationship with his adoptive, ex-cop father is a fulcrum on which he swings, and we’re given small glimpses into that relationship throughout the story. The Broken Ones is not for the faint of heart, however. There’s nothing gratuitous here, but the author absolutely does not pull punches, and there were a few times that I had to look away and catch my breath. The language he uses is just beautiful, even when describing the most gruesome scenes:


    There is one particular scene in The Broken Ones that absolutely terrified me. I’m talking about “watching-the-scariest-movie” muscle clenching horror. I held my breath for two whole pages. It’s been a long time since a book has had that effect on me, and frankly, it was awesome. To pigeonhole The Broken Ones into one genre would be very inaccurate. It’s a combination of supernatural thriller, police procedural, horror, and dystopian…and it works. Oh boy, does it work! Stephen M. Irwin puts his characters through the emotional and physical ringers, and doesn’t spare his reader either. I felt wrung out when I finished this novel, but in the best way, the way you feel like when you’ve finished a wonderful book...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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