This is an easy one to answer: UNHOLY GHOSTS by Stacia Kane. Hands down. Before I dive into the "why's," here's the copy from the back cover:
"THE DEPARTED HAVE ARRIVED.
The world is not the way it was. The dead have risen, and the living are under attack. The powerful Church of Real Truth, in charge since the government fell, has sworn to reimburse citizens being harassed by the deceased. Enter Chess Putnam, a fully tattooed witch and freewheeling ghost hunter. She’s got a real talent for banishing the wicked dead. But Chess is keeping a dark secret: She owes a lot of money to a murderous drug lord named Bump, who wants immediate payback in the form of a dangerous job that involves black magic, human sacrifice, a nefarious demonic creature, and enough wicked energy to wipe out a city of souls. Toss in lust for a rival gang leader and a dangerous attraction to Bump’s ruthless enforcer, and Chess begins to wonder if the rush is really worth it. Hell, yeah."
One more issue before I start up with my "why's" -- I have not yet finished reading the book. However, I can honestly say, it's one that needs to be read.
When I first read this description a few months ago after hearing about the book from Stacia Kane's Twitter feed, I knew I had to read it. The first reason being it's set in a sort of post-apocalyptic world in which the dead have risen. (Not like Night of the Living Dead risen, but more like Ghostbusters risen...minus the giant marshmallow man.) I've always had a soft spot for post-apoc fiction and this rang a lot of bells for me.
The second reason I wanted to read UNHOLY GHOSTS is that the protagonist, Chess, is a drug addict. While I don't condone the use of illegal substances (and neither does the author, if I understand her Twitter feed comments correctly), I thought the concept of a character with this big of a flaw being the central "good guy" for not only one book but a trilogy was worth a read. And I'm oh so happy I took the chance.
While I've read plenty of books in which the villains were using drugs, I think UNHOLY GHOSTS is the first I've read in which the protagonist is the addict. It's a unique twist that in Kane's world works to severely hamstring Chess and yet offers so much potential for character growth in the next two books. The world Kane has created is gritty, dark, and unvarnished of the normal spit-shine given to many worlds, even including some post-apoc fiction. The characters aren't fully heroes but neither are they villains. They are simply, in my mind, ordinary people trying to survive in extraordinary circumstances and whatever helps them survive the day is fair game. Chess's drug use is no exception.
I had much the same reaction to Chess in the beginning as I did to Jude in Joe Hill's HEART-SHAPED BOX. I liked her on one level -- she is a kick-ass kinda gal, as proven in the first exorcism scene -- but I also didn't want to fully like her because of her biggest flaw, the drugs. But Kane's writing has sucked me into this gritty world and I keep coming back to it. The more I read of Chess, the more I like her. Even though her drug usage is substantial, I must admit it's very realistic. Speaking as someone who has seen addicts both in and outside of treatment, Chess's need to get her next fix is believable, and I applaud Kane for taking on a potentially controversial subject matter and twisting it ever so deftly to create what I believe is a stand-out novel in a market filled with flawed characters.
I came to UNHOLY GHOSTS with a fairly high expectations based on the pre-release hype I'd heard. So far, it hasn't let me down...which is perhaps the biggest surprise of all.
Now go away. I'm want to finish reading. :)