THE THRILL OF THE HAUNT:
A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery
By E.J. Copperman
Berkley Prime Crime, November 2013 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Alison Kerby, owner and proprietor of a haunted Victorian guesthouse in Harbor Haven, New Jersey, does not like to be called the ghost lady. People tend to look askance at her when they hear stories about the ghostly goings-on at her home. Not that she cares what most people think, as long as it doesn't hurt her business, but there is one person in particular she'd rather not spook. Josh Kaplan is a childhood friend turned romantic interest, and she's hoping this time things will work out. He knows she's keeping a secret, and she knows it bothers him, but she doesn't think he'd cope well with her telling him that she speaks to dead people: two dead people, Paul, a deceased P.I., and Maxie, the previous home owner and interior decorator.
Alison wasn't pleased to learn, after suffering a head injury, that her new home came with resident tenants who had strong opinions about how she should run her business, but the two specters have become companions, helpmates, and, yes, friends. They are also an asset to her guesthouse business, with tours coming in just to witness daily performances of supernatural acts.
When Alison makes visits to her favorite bakery, the Stud Muffin, Everett, the Harbor Haven token homeless person, asks for the ghost lady's help because he's hearing dead people. She says she can't help him, and before long he joins the ranks of the dead himself. Her nemesis Kerin Murphy, who didn't seem especially fond of the man when he was alive, hires Alison to find his killer. Paul, who has been whining about needing something to do, is thrilled when Alison is hired for not one, but two, cases. A rather eccentric woman asks Alison to follow her husband and prove he's cheating, but not for the usual reasons. That case, too, turns into a murder investigation, one with several peculiar twists and turns.
While many amateur or amateurish sleuths thrive on plunging into complicated and dangerous situations in order to solve a case, Alison tries to unload hers on the police or real detectives. Even so, she usually manages to uncover the truth in the end, with assistance from family and friends, both earthly and unearthly.
There is so much to like in this book, and this series. There's a Closed Room Murder (men's room, that is), lots of down at the shore New Jersey atmosphere, a very likable protagonist with a lovely and loving family (including Ghost Dad), multi-talented ghosts, and a great plot. THE THRILL OF THE HAUNT is more fun than a barrel of ghostly monkeys.
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