Friday, June 16, 2017

The Ghost & the Dead Deb: Review

Penelope Thornton-McClure, co-owener of the Buy the Book bookstore, has a ghost. Not just any ghost. Hers is a P.I. by the name of Jack Shepard who was murdered on the spot nearly fifty years ago. In The Ghost & the Dead Deb, the second in Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series, the Buy the Book bookstore is hosting an author reading and book-signing with Angel Stark. Angel has just written a true crime novel about a recent unsolved mystery among the young and upper-class. When Angel starts taking questions after the reading, it becomes clear that not everyone in the audience is a fan. There is a particularly nasty confrontation with a young woman who claims the book is full of lies. And who knew there'd be so many connections to "cornpone" Quindicott, Rhode Island? But when Angel is killed and the sister of the "Dead Deb" featured in the book's murder case disappears, Penelope finds more connections than she is comfortable with--including a forgotten cousin in her deceased husband's family. Penelope and Jack are soon on the case looking to see if someone wanted to keep Angel from discovering the real killer of the Dead Deb or if there is another motive hidden the quiet Rhode Island town.

--The initial attraction of the book was its interesting hook: the relationship between the ghostly Private Eye Jack Shepard and the amateur detective and bookstore owner Penelope Thornton-McClure (on purely the detective-duo portion of the relationship--see comments on "romance" below). It was also its weakness. After all, Jack was supposedly firmly attached to the bookstore, the site of his own murder. That idea was apparently sold in the first novel and continued to be to mode of operation through about half of this one. Then...I guess Kimberly figured out that there wasn't much scope for a detective partnership that couldn't roam far from the bookstore and we discover that Jack has some supernatural connection to a buffalo nickel and if Penelope carries that about with her she can also take Jack along for the ride. Mmmmkay. Way to dream up something to get yourself out of the corner you painted yourself into...instant magic carpet.

--The "romance" which seems to be hinted at between Jack and Penelope is just plain weird. He's dead. It has no future unless all she wants is a mental/emotional turn-on. 

--Quite honestly, I was much more interested in Jack and what happened in the forties. I think I'd rather that Alice Kimberly wrote about his earthly life as a P.I. than his after-life.

--If Penelope really pauses to have the internal dialogues with Jack while others are around as often and for as long as some of the conversations seem to last, why aren't her friends, neighbors, and/or customers noticing that she seems to be zoning out and wondering if she's okay? I mean, seriously. My husband occasionally has a tendency to go into "daydream mode" while I'm talking to him--some word or phrase or whatever will trigger a memory or another thought and he glazes over. It doesn't take me long to notice and say "Hey!" You can't tell me that those closest to her don't notice that Penelope is no longer in the real-life conversation.

Final Analysis: Really had potential. Jack is an interesting character that I wish were featured in his own book about his own investigations. Except for the hints of romantic interest, I do like the exchanges between Jack and Penelope. It would be nice if they could just operate as friends and co-investigators and leave out the romantic tone. The mystery plot is so-so. I prefer it when all of the clues are readily available and the reader has a fair chance of figuring things out for themselves. ★★ and a half. 

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