I jumped at the chance to read and review this book based on the blurb and the main character's description. This is a brand new historical cozy series, so join me in the turn of the century when there was a surge of interest in psychic phenomenon and medium-ship and multitudes of fakes taking advantage people.
Copyright: September 2016 (Berkley) 352 pgs
Series: 1st in A Change of Fortune Mystery series
Mystery Sub-genre: Cozy Historical Mystery
Main Characters: Ruby Proulx, a psychic with a "questionable" past
Setting: 1898, Old Orchard-Maine
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
"Canada, 1898. The only life Ruby Proulx has ever known is that of a nomad, traveling across the country with her snake-oil salesman father. She dreams of taking root somewhere, someday, but, until she can, she makes her way by reading tarot cards. Yet she never imagined her own life would take such a turn…
After one of her father’s medical “miracles” goes deadly wrong, Ruby evades authorities by hiding in the seaside resort town of Old Orchard, Maine, where her estranged aunt, Honoria, owns the Hotel Belden, a unique residence that caters to Spiritualists—a place where Ruby should be safe as long as she can keep her dark secret hidden.
But Ruby’s plan begins to crumble after a psychic investigator checks into the hotel and senses Ruby is hiding more than she’s letting on. Now Ruby must do what she can to escape both his attention and Aunt Honoria’s insistence that she has a true gift, before she loses her precious new home and family forever."
Ruby may seem worldly wise for her youth, but she has the proverbial good heart in spite of her con-artist rearing. This makes her endearing as she struggles to be honest. Aunt Honoria is a dear, the relative that gives unconditional love. Officer Warren Yancy provides the potential love interest, and even though it is the standard policeman - his struggle with Ruby on many levels makes it interesting. Lucinda (Lucy) is Officer Yancy's sister who has become Ruby's fast friend and is a great side kick. The Velmont Sisters, Elva and Dovie, become Ruby's most ardent supporters as she develops her psychic abilities. They are the breakout stars.
The seaside town of Old Orchard is a great setting that is woven throughout the story to become a vivid element in the tapestry. Loved the town and the Hotel Belden.
The plot and subplots are equal parts mystery and character driven for a great story. The murderer was well hidden in plain sight, clever. Pacing was perfect and kept me reading into the night to find out the next bit facing Ruby.
The climax was fun with some dramatic elements. I enjoyed the killer confrontation and hope this is a signature of the series. The wrap up was equally well done, and I am anxious for the next installment.
This is an exciting debut novel, Ms. Estevao provides complex characters in a fascinating time period with interesting plots in an idyllic setting. Couldn't ask for better.
Rating: Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.