Ghost in the Wind
Berkley Prime Crime, December 2015
Mass Market Paperback
Alison Kerby returns in the 7th and newest in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison Kerby, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore [which she describes as ‘a charming but somewhat rickety Victorian’ into which she has sunk ‘every last dime I had’], inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, Melissa, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, who had died at 28, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father. (At Paul’s urging, Alison is now a licensed private investigator.) It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts. She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily ‘spook shows.’
Alison is taken aback, to understate the case, when she is asked by a new ghost in the house, a man/musician who has been her idol for decades, and who I suspect may be the fictional reincarnation of one of the Beatles, who I also suspect has held that position in the author’s life (he is here called Vance McTiernan, ‘lead singer and songwriter of the Jingles,’) who tasks Alison with finding out who murdered his daughter, who died a few months before from an allergic reaction to food she had ingested. Although there was a suspicion that it was suicide, he is convinced she was murdered. Alison and her ghostly cohorts take up the investigation, made more difficult since many if not most of the people who might have killed the girl were presently dead.
There is a second ‘job’ that Alison works on when she has a spare minute, and that is discovering the whereabouts of a ‘short blond guy named Lester from Topeka, Kansas,’ at the behest of a rather strange woman pulling a wagon who turns up from time to time.
The writing is terrific, just what one needs in these days of fictional and real-life horrors, and I read the book over a span of a couple of days, all of it with at least a smile on my face or laughing out loud. The book is well-plotted and the characters, alive or otherwise, thoroughly engaging (even the ones who try Alison’s, and perhaps the reader’s, patience).
As I’ve said before, my preference in mystery genres generally does not include either “cozies” or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add). But this author’s writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part – – his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended, and this one is no exception.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, December 2015.