Saturday, August 4, 2012
I have been following this series since the first book was released. Check out my previous reviews:
To Sketch a Thief - book 2 (click here), and Sketch Me If You Can - book 1 (click here). I was also honored to interview Sharon Pape (click here).
Author: Sharon Pape
Copyright: March 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 3rd in A Portrait of Crime Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Paranormal Private Investigator, Paranormal Cozy
Main Characters: Aurora (Rory) McCain, former police sketch-artist turned PI
Setting: Modern day, Suffolk County New York
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
The story opens with Rory on a trip to Arizona to investigate Federal Marshal Ezekiel Drummond's murder in 1878. Rory plans on a few days of investigation, then joining her aunt Helene and the "Way off Broadway Players" for their group vacation. Rory has barely started her research into the Marshall's death, part of a deal with Zeke's ghost, when death strikes the "Players" during their visit to Gray Wolf Canyon via a flash flood. Preston Wright is the youngest in the acting troupe, yet he is the only fatality. Zeke provides his suspicions that it could have been a murder of opportunity despite the local police ruling it an accident. Preston's estranged mother also suspects foul play although she admits Preston was a slick criminal.
So Preston's mother hires Rory to investigate his death. Rory soon realizes nearly every member of the "Way off Broadway Players" had motive to kill him, but was it murder or just an accident? When Rory has a break in and some scare tactics thrown her way, she is convinced it was murder alright and that she is getting closer to breaking the case.
Rory continues to be an interesting character. She is brave, stuborn, determined like a lion on the hunt, and working on controlling her anger flares at her resident ghost, Zeke. Zeke is also a great side-kick because he has grown fond of Rory, but his 1800s gender-role ideas haven't fully been modernized. He was a good Marshal and feels Rory needs him, or maybe he just needs to be needed. Zeke is learning to work with Rory rather than demand and rage. Often their verbal sparing is comical. I have to say that Zeke does have a break-though in acknowledging Rory's capabilities - not to be missed.
Then there is Aunt Helene, the most colorful member of Rory's family. Helene is a delight without being too over-the-top. A new character is introduced in this story, Eloise, the elderly mother of a neighbor. Eloise is a Ghost-whisperer ever since her stroke, and goes between grave-yard serious, to child-like in seconds. I loved her and look forward to her continued appearances in future books. I have to give kudos to Hobo, the mutt adopted in the prior story. Hobo is just a bundle of comedy and love - nothing extraordinary, just a typical lovable dog that brings a warmth to the pages.
The setting has a few scenes in Arizona, but the bulk still takes place in New York. This book continues the two prior book's trend of integrating chapters following the Marshall's story from 1878 as he tracks the serial killer that led to his murder. Those chapters are scattered and only occasionally so it doesn't really disrupt, but accentuates the dynamics of what makes Zeke tick as a ghost. This book provides the answer of who killed Zeke, providing him some closure, while giving an emotional twist to that drama.
The plot is on par for a cozy mystery, providing a victim just asking to be "eliminated" with plenty of capable suspects. The killer was not necessarily obvious, but I did suspect who it was, although the red herrings did a good job of confusing the trail. The confrontation was handled quite well and the wrap up solidifies the partnership of Rory and Zeke Investigations. The subplot of who killed Marshall Drummond is wrapped up with a plausible and surprising resolution.
The cover artwork illustrates the Victorian home that Rory inherited from her PI uncle that introduced her to the Marshal's ghost. It also shows Zeke beginning to break free of the boundaries of the house and travel along with Rory. I mention the cover because the style seems to have changed from the prior books, but it still is meaningful to the story.
This series continues to provide solid cozy mystery plots, with interesting characters that delight and splashes of humor. The paranormal elements consist of ghosts thus far (Zeke's ghost and Eloise communicating with ghosts) but is not presented in a scary or creepy way, rather to flavor the stories. Well done cozy with an entertaining paranormal element.
Rating: Excellent - Loved it! Buy it now and put this author on your watch list.