Wednesday, August 1, 2018

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (A Haunted Bookshop Mystery #1)

Author:  Alice Kimberly
Genre:  Mystery

Mass Market Paperback; Paperback (LP); Digital Book
ISBN #:  9780425194614; 9781587246661
Berkley Publishing
272 Pages
$7.99; $25.99; $7.99 Amazon
February 3, 2004

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Young widow Penelope Thornton-McClure and her old Aunt Sadie are making ends meet by managing a mystery book shop - a quaint Rhode Island landmark rumored to be haunted.  Pen may not believe in ghosts, but she does believe in good publicity - like nabbing Timothy Brennan for a book signing.  But soon after the bestselling writer reveals a secret about the store's link to a 1940s murder, he keels over dead - and right in the middle of the store's new Community Events space.

Who gives Mrs. McClure the first clue that it was murder?  The bookstore's full-time ghost - a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago.  Is he a figment of Pen's overactive imagination?  Or is the oddly likable fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime?  You can bet your everlasting life on it...

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When Penelope Thornton-McClure makes a decision to take her husband's life insurance policy and use it to save her aunt Sadie's failing bookstore in the small town of Quindicott, Rhode Island, she renovated it and even changed the name to Buy the Book, which was suggested by her seven-year-old son Spencer.  She decided that they needed to get out of New York and her late husband's wealthy parents' sphere, as they expected to run her son's life much the same way they managed their own son.  So this is where she wound up, and she hoped she could make a living.

What she didn't expect was that a famous mystery writer - Timothy Brennan - would decide to use the store to do a kick-off of his new book tour.  When he arrived, along with his daughter Deirdre and son-in-law Kenneth and Shelby Cabot from his publishing house - not to mention a few others and a camera crew to film it - Penelope didn't realize her life was about to become upended.

It wasn't bad enough that Shelby was taking control of her store, moving things around and treating her like she hadn't a brain in her head, but Penelope was one who didn't like to rock the boat, so even though Shelby hadn't returned any of her numerous calls to see if there was anything Timothy needed, she allowed any remarks to pass.  It wasn't bad enough that Timothy treated her like a servant and yelled at her when she offered him something to eat.

But then it started to get very bad all at once.  Timothy began his speech and said that he wasn't going to write his best-selling mysteries about Jack Shield anymore, the ones he based on the life of real-life PI Jack Shepard, which drew disappointed murmurs from the crowded room.  He said he was going to write non-fiction, starting with the murder of his friend Jack who was murdered in the 1940's, right here in Quindicott.  In fact, he added, it was right here...in this space, where this bookshop now was.

Penelope was as stunned as the rest of the audience, but more so by the heckler who was saying that he wasn't a friend of Shepard's, and if he had Shepard's case files, he must have stolen them.  But as she looked around, she saw no one.  Yet the voice continued, and Penelope thought she must be hearing things since nobody else seemed to notice.

But things went from bad to worse when Brennan would very soon wind up dead on the floor of her bookshop, and Penelope was beginning to realize that he was right...Jack Shepard did die in the bookshop many years ago...and he was right here now, and she was the only person who could see or hear him.

When it becomes apparent that Timothy didn't die from a weak heart as was expected, Penelope wonders who wanted to kill him.  But she soon discovers that he wasn't liked by many people, including his own daughter.  But what seems strange to her is the fact that several of these people showed up the next day to her shop, all wanting to use the ladies' restroom.  It wasn't until Pen started to realize that Jack was real and Jack was right about Timothy being murdered that she also figured out she might be high on the suspect list...

While I know that this is an older book, I also know that the series has been revived, with a new book due out soon.  My only disappointment is that I didn't find this series years ago; alas, too many other books seemed to have gotten in the way.

I'm not saying that there weren't any disappointments in the book, but anything I might have found can be easily shunted aside for this very entertaining book.  I loved the idea that Jack is an honest-to-good 1940's private investigator.  He dresses like one and talks like one.  As a classic film buff, especially Noir, this couldn't be any better for me.  I'm a sucker for this kind of stuff; and honestly, Jack's the best part of the book, period.

Which isn't to say I don't like the other characters.  Sadie isn't in the book very much at all; yet I get the feeling from something she said to Penelope that she's quite aware Jack is around the building somewhere, however she doesn't push the issue.  I do feel that Penelope's young son Spencer isn't acting like a seven-year-old; he talks more like someone that's maybe twelve.  I get the fact he's been to private schools, but still, there are times his vocabulary seems suited to someone older.  I also didn't like "Pinkie" at all; I absolutely detest women who think they can steamroll anyone in their path and essentially blackmail them into doing whatever they want.  Luckily, she wasn't in the book for more than a paragraph, and I hope it stays that way for future books.  People like that can spoil an entire book.

But then on to Penelope...she starts out as being wishy-washy, which I dislike in women.  I wasn't sure what to make of it, but then her past came to light slowly, and I could tell that she had been gradually beaten down over time by a weak husband and his overbearing family; and even by the publisher she had worked for.  Penelope just didn't know how to stand up for herself.  But she would learn...with the help of Jack, even if she didn't want it.

We watch Pen grow from a weak-kneed widow to a woman who has possibilities and strength, more of which I hope to see in the next in this series.  I liked the interaction between Pen and Jack, especially the dream sequence where she's recounting a conversation to him, and appears to be one of his clients.  I hope to see more of these 'dream sequences' in later books.

The writing was very good and I enjoyed the story line immensely; as I stated above, I liked to watch Penelope's character grow as things continue.  I'd also like to see Jack materialize a bit more, but again, since these books have already been written, it's only a matter of reading them that will tell me if this will happen.

When the killer is finally revealed, it all comes together nicely, and I liked the way it was all put together.  And while I know that it's too early to tell, I for one am glad that this has been revived and I hope to see the series go on for a good long while.

https://www.amazon.com/Ghost-McClure-Haunted-Bookshop-Mystery/dp/0425194612/ref

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/323587602

More on Alice Kimberly's Books:  https://www.fantasticfiction.com/a/alice-alfonsi/

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