The Hostess with the Ghostess
A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery #9
E. J. Copperman
Crooked Lane Books, January 2018
Alison Kerby returns in the 9th book in the Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious thirteen-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father. 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.’ From the publisher: Things are never quiet for long at the Haunted Guesthouse. Right as Alison Kerby finally gets some peace, long-time deceased Paul Harrison’s recently murdered brother, Richard, shows up looking for the ghostly detective. But Paul has left for parts unknown months ago – – and Alison doesn’t know how to find him. As she searches for Paul, Alison discovers that Richard, who was a lawyer, was working a case about a woman accused of murdering her stepfather. It quickly becomes clear that Richard was getting too close to the truth and was forcibly kept quiet. Now as Alison continues her investigation, she gets a creeping sensation that the murderer doesn’t appreciate her snooping around. And if she doesn’t stop, she’ll be next . . .
I found it very helpful to have a “Cast of Characters” on the page before page 1 of the book. I also loved the first paragraph: “’Something’s missing.’ I was sitting on a barstool next to the center island in my kitchen, having a conversation with five other people, two of whom were alive.” But Alison, whose quote that is, quickly goes on to explain, and to introduce those with her, both living and otherwise. After getting divorced from her 1st husband, who she not-so-lovingly refers to as “the Swine,” she returns to her hometown of Harbor Haven, on the “deservedly famous Jersey Shore,” where she opens her guesthouse. Her euphemisms for the ghosts who reside there, after she introduces the “alive people in the room,” range from “non-living” to those who have been “deprived of life,” but they definitely come to life in this delightful, wholly entertaining book. There is also Maxie’s ghost husband, Everett, who still spends time at the local gas station, where he died. He thinks of it as standing guard at his post.
When first meeting the aforementioned Richard, her “first thought was, “I wonder if he’d do some spook shows.” Alison et al agree to search for his missing dead brother, who she refers to as her “conscience. He was the Jiminy Cricket of ghosts.” Alison has now been remarried for four months, to one Josh Kaplan. Also added to the mix is her daughter Melissa’s little adopted ghost dog, destined to “always be a puppy,” of course. I loved the comment made when Melissa’s interactions with Alison prompts the latter to think that she couldn’t even be grumpy, which puts “something of a damper on my day. If you can’t be grumpy, what’s the point of being from New Jersey?” The plot moves nicely into the investigation inhttp://www.ejcopperman.com/to the murders, which is resolved with contributions from the ghosts, of course.
As I have said in the past about the Copperman books, and it remains just as true, the writing is wonderful, with the author’s s trademark laugh-out-loud wit and intelligence, well-plotted mystery and very well-drawn characters, alive or otherwise. 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. His dedication to several brilliant comics of years past ends with the words “there aren’t enough funny people in the world,” a deficit which he certainly helps to overcome.
Reviewed by Gloria Feit, January 2018.