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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Review - Night of the Living Deed

Fall is creeping up on us and that means Halloween can't be far behind.  I have been waiting for this season to read all my paranormal mysteries!  So here is the first in my line-up, a new mystery series by a kinda-sorta new author.

Author: E.J. Copperman

Copyright:  June, 2010 (Berkley) 336 pages

Series: #1  in the Haunted Guesthouse Mysteries

Sensuality: N/A

Mystery sub-genre: Cozy (Paranormal) 

Main Character: Alison Kerby, recently divorced mother of nine year old Melissa 

Setting: Modern day New Jersey Shore

Obtained book through:  Publisher for an honest review

Alison Kerby moves back to her hometown to start over after divorcing "the swine".  She acquires an old Victorian fixer-upper mansion with the express mission of restoring it and turning it into a guesthouse to support herself and her daughter, Melissa.  She quickly finds out this Victorian has "lots of character" in the form of two resident ghosts, the former owner and the private investigator she hired to protect her and find out who was threatening her.   Alison is soon pressured to help the ghosts uncover who killed them - particularly when she begins getting death threats herself.

Alison is a truly likable character with a sense of humor and a touch of sass.   She is handy with power tools and knows her way around a saw horse and Spackle.  She has a "can-do" attitude and doesn't shy away from a lot of hard work. I enjoyed her quirky way of looking at things which made the story a pleasant ride.

The interactions with the two ghosts can be either humorous interchanges or frustrating situations - for both Alison and them.  Imagine having a ghost chiming in on your design/decoration plans or being a conflicting influence for your child!  The ghosts, Maxie and Paul, are wonderful characters who appear to be permanent fixtures in the house and possibly the series.  Alison's mother adores her daughter, which is a pleasant change from so many cozies that have obnoxious mothers.  But as we get to know her, mom has a bit more spunk than even Alison realized.  Some nice touches there!

"We heard something fall, and we thought someone might be hurt," Paul told me.

I experimented with standing up, but my head was not pleased with the attempt..."No, that's not what happened," I told Paul.  "Paul, right?  I remember, you were yelling at her."  I indicated Maxie.  "You said she might have killed me."

Paul's eyes widened in an "uh-oh" sort of way for a flash, and he clearly avoided the urge to look quickly at Maxie.  "I wasn't talking about you.  I was talking about our dog."

"Your dog."

Paul nodded.  "Yes, Maxie left our dog in the car with the windows closed.  In this heat..."

"Heat?" I asked.  "It's October.  It's maybe sixty degrees out.  What heat?"

His stammering got worse.  "Dogs feel the heat more than we do," he said.  "All that fur..."

"I got hit on the head," I told Paul.  "It hurt, but it didn't make me stupid."

Maxie laughed.  "Good one," she said.

I turned to Maxie.  "Don't look at Paul," I said.  "What kind of dog do you have?"

She wasn't chewing gum, but she should have been.  "We don't have a dog," she answered.

"Then what's going on?"

"We're dead."  She cocked her head defiantly.

Paul looked aghast.  "Maxie!"

I opened and closed my mouth a few times.  It was worse than I thought.  I wasn't just woozy - I was hallucinating.  I decided to lie down and close my eyes for a moment.
It wouldn't be a cozy without the ensemble of interesting town's people.  The mayor who was a prior beautician, the "perfect" mother who works for Alison (and coincidentally Maxie's) real estate agent, the developer wanting to snatch up Alison's house and Melissa's history teacher who is over-eager to explore the house in spite of repairs being done.  A stand out minor character is the local newspaper's one-and-only staffer, Phyllis who has been around long enough to know the goings on.

The plot is solid without being overdone.  The story moves along easily and before you know it the story is wrapping up.  The writing is smooth and flows expertly.  Told from Alison's viewpoint, it is easy reading and funny.  I enjoyed the wrap up which set up the next works to be equally as enjoyable.  As a cozy it is spot-on and entertaining and as a debut novel it foretells a delightful series I am looking forward to reading each addition to.

For added mystery, this prior-published author is apparently assuming a pen-name to keep his/her identity quiet.  Hmmmmm, who could it be???

 I liked how the title is a tip-of-the hat to "Night of the Living Dead" with here is a zombie cat for you.

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Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I am gearing up for the fall too with a list of spooky cozies!

A.F. Heart said...

Yes! I look forward to it all year long. I think it makes the reading even more fun! I am such a geek.

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