When six hundred thousand people suddenly die, it has to leave a mark, at least what Obi Wan would call a disturbance in the force, and in Will McIntosh’s Hitchers, that disturbance widens the crack the between the living and the dead, allowing the dead to use the living as macabre time shares.In Hitchers, home-grown whackos release anthrax in Atlanta, resulting in the direct death of hundreds of thousands and the incidental drowning death of Finn Darby, a cartoonist who has taken over his dead grandfather’s newspaper comic strip and who two years earlier suffered the death of his wife, killed in a lightning strike before his eyes. Luckily Darby is resuscitated after drowning, but he’s accidentally picked up his grandfather’s vengeful spirit and is slowly being possessed by the old man. Grandpa resents the success the newly invigorated comic strip has seen since his grandson took over, against the old man’s dying wishes.The story starts as a steady drip, drip of eerie until the spigot opens wide into a full-on nightmare when throughout the stricken city others begin speaking in a dead person’s voice. But Darby’s “case” is far more advanced, probably because of his ten minutes in the land of dead while his rescuers tried to bring him back to life. He’s already experienced the progression from the spooky frog-like voice of the dead to the claiming of his body.Fortunately the dead can at first only claim the living for a short time and Darby is contacted by others who are also unwilling hosts of the dead, including an aging rock star and a waitress who has a connection with Darby from the time of his wife’s death.What’s really enjoyable about Hitchers is the nice juxtaposition of something so sadly believable — a terrorist attack — and the utterly fantastic — the dead possessing the living. The main characters suffering from their afflictions are also admirable for their logical, almost scientific approach in investigating the parameters of their nightmare, coupled with a lot of eye rolling metaphysics. And it’s all based in the present world of the first black president, Homeland Security, religious extremists who see the dead as Satan’s Army and lots of references to National Public Radio. It’s also very believable that the dead should want to experience life again, from going to nightclubs to posting on facebook.It’s also nice to see Darby go from a man, almost friendless after the death of his wife and actually left friendless after the anthrax deaths, to a man who has found fast friends and who has conquered some of the demons that have haunted him his whole life.I also really appreciated the conclusion, which seems very logical given the parameters of the world McIntosh has created. I feared the book would go the way of a British SF television series — in other words slit your wrists bleak, but I think you’ll appreciate the groundwork the author had laid to support the conclusion.