Ghosts, literal and figurative, haunt the books I’ve been reading of late. KEEPER OF THE CASTLE, by Juliet Blackwell (Obsidian, 2014,$7.99) finds construction contractor and part-time ghostbuster Mel Turner working on the reconstruction of a Scottish castle in San Francisco. Problems arise when not one, but two ghostly manifestation send the workers scurrying. Then the body of a nosy city official turns up, and Mel’s construction crew comes under suspicion. Mixed stones from two different sites, a fierce Scottish nationalist, and an archeological expert with his own agenda, all play a part in this solid entry in the Haunted House Renovation Mysteries.
Another construction site in California is the scene for THIS OLD HOMICIDE, by Kate Carlisle (Obsidian, 2015, $7.99). Shannon Hammer loves her small town, Lighthouse Cove, and its quirky inhabitants. The quirkiest is Jesse Hennessey, one of Shannon’s father’s old war buddies, whose tall tales of sunken treasure, have always been taken with several shakers of salt. Then Shannon finds Jesse dead, apparently of natural causes, but strange things are happening in the house next door.. Mysterious midnight visitors tear the place apart, looking for buried treasure. A woman turns up, claiming to be Jesse’s fiance. Is the story Jesse told about finding an old Spanish wreck true? And why is Shannon’s nemesis, Whitney, trying to take over the management of the annual Valentine’s Day festivities? It all comes together in a cosmic, comic confrontation, and Shannon solves not one, but two mysteries. A fun read.
Maia Chance’s SNOW WHITE RED-HANDED (Berkley, 2014, $7.99) shifts to Germany in 1867. Ophelia Flax is an actress out of work, who finagles herself into a job as lady’s maid to the wife of an American millionaire who has just taken over a German castle with a connection to a fairy-tale past. Was Snow White an actual princess? Someone seems to think so; there are tales of buried treasure, and a possible gold mine worked by very short people. Then her boss is found dead, poisoned by an apple! Ophelia must deal with German police, student secret societies, and faded aristocrats before she can uncover the secret of Snow White’s tomb and face down a fiendish killer. There’s more to come in this series that crosses Historical with Occult mysteries.
The past is very much part of the present in G.M. Malliet’s PAGAN SPRING (Minotaur, 2014, $15.99), when Max Tudor, ex-MI5 and now Anglican priest in Nether Monkslip, finds himself in the middle of yet another murder. A newcomer to the village, actor Thaddeus Bottle, dies after attending a dinner party, where Max is one of the guests, and Max suspects poison of a particularly rare kind. There are plenty of suspects, starting with Mrs. Bottle, who has been the target of Thaddeus’s bile for years. But what does a pair of elaborate earrings have to do with the case? And why does the charming French hairdresser blanch at the sight of striped wallpaper? The truth is stranger than anything Max has known during his career as secret agent, and once again, old sins cast long shadows. The War is never over for some people, and the solution to the mystery is locked in emails sent to someone who can never read them. A jaunt into the English countryside, with dark overtones.
These reviews were provided by Roberta Rogow for her column Roberta’s Ramblings in the June 2015 issue of The Book Breeze.