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A HARD DAY'S FRIGHT
By Casey Daniels
Berkley Prime Crime, 2011 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Lucy Pasternak was a golden girl, golden hair, golden lips, golden nails. She was popular, beautiful, and everyone at Shaker Heights High School liked her; everyone except the person who killed her. One August night in 1966 she and a few of her best friends went to the Cleveland Municipal Stadium to see the Beatles. A mob of screaming fans charged the stage, but Lucy was the only one to climb up on the stage, and she kissed Paul McCartney right on the mouth. On the train ride home, she announced to one and all that she was the coolest, the bravest girl in the universe. She said she'd never let anyone's lips touch hers ever again. She was right.
All but one of her friends decided to go to Darren's house to listen to the newest Rolling Stones album. Lucy declined. She was supposed to make sure the youngest of the group got home safely, but the girl got miffed at her and said she could get home on her own. She was the last person to see Lucy alive.
Jumping forward forty-five years, Pepper Martin, tour guide at Garden View Cemetery, fashion maven, and reluctant private detective to the dead, is riding that same train. She is not the kind of girl to use public transportation, but her car is in the shop and she has to take the Rapid to her boss Ella's house to catch a ride. As she's grumbling to herself about being stuck in a crowded train with smelly, sweaty passengers, she sees a young girl who's a throwback to the 60's: straight, shiny blond hair, miniskirt, gold lipstick and matching nail polish. As she walks down the aisle, people shiver, but no one seems to notice her strange attire. She plops herself down next to Pepper, who realizes no one else can see her. As if the day hadn't been bad enough already, now she's got a ghost spilling her sad story in full teenage angst mode. She'd heard through the ghostly party line about Pepper's skills, and is thrilled to run into her. Lucy's ghost can't move on until her body is found and laid to rest. She tells Pepper she doesn't care about finding out who killed her, she just wants off the darn train. Unfortunately for Lucy, she has next to no clues to offer Pepper about where to look. Fortunately for Pepper, Lucy's ghost is stuck on the train, like poor Charlie on the MTA, so she can turn down Lucy's request with no guilt.
Like that's going to happen! When she gets to Ella's house, she's shocked to find the normally neat house a complete mess, and her normally calm and collected friend a blubbering wreck. Her teenage daughter Ariel had run away from home, disappearing "just like Lucy Pasternak." Yes, Ella was the young girl who'd last seen Lucy alive. She tells Pepper the whole story, naming names and telling tales. With her help and a few more visits with Lucy on the train, Pepper sets off on the trail to find where the body is buried. While Lucy might not care who put her in that grave, Pepper does. Despite her annoying teen-ageness, Pepper comes to like Lucy and wants her killer to be brought to justice.
This is the seventh in the Pepper Martin mystery series. All are enjoyable, light reading with believable characters, interesting locations, and a nice twisty plot.
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