Sunday, November 23, 2014

Dying for the Past (A Gumshoe Ghost Mystery #2)

Author:  T.J. O'Connor
Genre:  Mystery/Paranormal

Five Stars
Dying is not for the faint of heart.
Neither is the murder of a mysterious philanthropist with ties to the Russian mob and 1939 gangsters.
Former detective Oliver “Tuck” Tucker—ghost-detective extraordinaire—is on the case with the help of his wife, Professor Angela Tucker and his former police-detective partners. Together, they must find the killer and be the first to read "the book"—deceased gangster Vincent Calabrese’s journal that names names and reveals the dirty secrets of several modern-day spies.

As Tuck learns the book’s secrets, he begins to unravel his own family’s wayward past leading to the question—is being a ghost hereditary?

Even while chasing a killer, the biggest challenge Tuck must conquer is how to be back amongst the living as one of them.

We first met our protagonist, Oliver Tucker, in Dying to Know.  In that book, he was killed...but not gone.  In fact, he's still living in his home, with his wife Angela and dog Hercule, and still trying to convince his partner, Bear Braddock, that he's around and still willing to help him solve cases.
While Angela, whose love for her husband has allowed her to see and interact with Tuck as if he were still alive (at least interact as far as one can with a ghost), Bear is definitely having problems with it and trying to completely ignore "the voices in his head."
This time around, Angel (as Tuck calls her) a Professor of History, is giving a gala to fund her department for various reasons.  Among the guests is a very rich man who is shot dead - in the middle of the gala, right in front of everyone, including the police.  However, there are no witnesses, and the only suspect appears to be Angela's uncle Andre Cartier, who raised her.  On top of that, the entire amount of money raised (checks and cash) has also disappeared.  Unwilling to believe Andre guilty of murder, Tuck decides to find the real killer. 
But there's a slight problem:  in the middle of the gala, only he saw a man enter - a man dressed in clothes from the 1930's, who stayed for a very short time, and after the shooting left the same way he came.  Thus begins our mystery.
And oh, what a mystery it is.  For not only is Tuck tasked to find the real killer, but he must also find out who the mysterious man is, which he does in short order.  It turns out he is a gangster named Vincent Calabrese, who was killed in 1939 and the house where the gala is being held belongs to him.  It turns out that while Angela wants Vincent House for the university where she works, Vincent isn't so willing to give it up.
But soon this becomes even more of a deep and twisted mystery.  While we follow Tuck to find out where this all leads, he is contacted by Vincent, and Vincent's sexy mistress, Sassy, to find someone for him named Benjamin and a mysterious book.  It seems the book is the cause of all the trouble and Vincent wants it back.  No one seems to know where it is now, but we soon find that there are a lot of people who want it, now including Tuck, who must find the book or face the consequences.  For while it is apparent that Tuck, already dead, can't be killed twice, he soon discovers that not only can he taste Vincent's whiskey, he has discovered a new power - when he touches certain objects, he finds himself drawn into the history of that object as another person or an observer, whether it be in the recent past or the past where Vincent existed.
Stunned with this knowledge, he also discovers that someone is stalking Angela for unknown reasons.  Add to this the fact that the FBI now wants jurisdiction into the murder and that it is somehow tied to his own past and the Russian mob, and we have a compelling novel indeed.
Mr. O'Connor has given us a book that not only draws us into the action, we find ourselves wanting to know more about Tuck, and all the people in his life past and present - Angela, Bear, Poor Nic, and even Vincent, a recent arrival but I hope to see and find out more about him in the next book in the series.  Here's hoping that Tuck will go on a long time; in death he is one of the most interesting protagonists I have ever met; I can only wonder how interesting his life must have been.  Kudos to a great book; highly recommended.
This book will be published in January 2015.

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