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Thursday, October 6, 2011

Review - A Hard Day's Fright

Today we kick off our month of paranormal mysteries with the newest Pepper Martin book.  I reviewed the book just prior to this one in the series (click here.)  Also this book will be part of the giveaway hop at the end of October, so if you haven't read this one yet, you will have a chance to win it.  

Paranormal mysteries are somewhat new in the mystery genre, but they have already garnered a solid fan base.  So let's take a look at several this month, starting with an old murder from the sixties for our ghost-whispering sleuth (remember mini-shirts, go-go boots, the British invasion and "free love.")

Author:  Casey Daniels

Copyright:  April 2011 (Berkley) 304 pgs

Series:  7th in  Pepper Martin Mystery

Sensuality:  Some adult conversation with "mature" topics

Mystery Sub-genre:  Paranormal Cozy

Main Character:  Red-head Pepper Martin, cemetery tour guide and ghost whisperer who is the daughter of a prominent surgeon father imprisoned for insurance fraud, and a society mother. She must make her own way financially now.

Setting:  Modern Day, Cleveland Ohio

Obtained Through:  from publisher for an honest review

Pepper's car is broke so she is riding on the Rapid Transit when Lucy Pasternak, dead since 1966 after a Beatles concert, approaches Pepper.  But rather than asking Pepper to help find her killer she asks Pepper to simply find her body.  Nobody knows the fifteen year old and popular Lucy is dead because the body was never found.  Pepper was tempted to turn down the case since there just was no starting point, until her boss, Ella, turns out to have been Lucy's best friend and still mourns the loss of Lucy. 

Several friends were riding home together after the Beatles concert where Lucy kept retelling to her friends how she ran onto the stage and kissed Paul McCartney. The other friends in the group got of early, but Ella and Lucy stayed on the bus until Ella's stop.  Ella's last memory is of Lucy waving good by from the back of the bus.  Poof, she was never heard from again, like the intro of a "Lost Without a Trace" episode.  

That was forty-five years ago. Of course Pepper can't share what Lucy tells her happened that night.  How she got off at her stop and was jumped, blindfolded, tied up, and thrown in the back of a car.  When the trunk door opened again she was smothered with a blanket.  She has no clue where she was taken or who grabbed her.  Not much to go on for Pepper.  

The last thing Pepper needs is Ella's fifteen year old rebellious girl, Ariel, spending time with Pepper as a favor to Ella.  Ariel is a subplot that runs throughout the story and I found it a good touch with their interactions.  

Another subplot is the serial killer in the city that Pepper follows in the news because her ex-boyfriend is in the thick of capturing the man.  Each news story opens her fresh wounds from the break-up.  You see, he couldn't accept that she talks to the dead, he feels she is either emotional disturbed or playing games for attention.

The suspects range from one of Lucy's former teacher who is now a semi-famous poet, Lucy's ex-boyfriend, the girl who snatched up Lucy's ex, two other guys that went to the concert, one of which had a crush on Ella.  Of all these suspects, one of the guys was killed in Nam with rumors he committed suicide by jumping into gunfire, the other guy is a long standing drunk who seems haunted by his past.  Lucy's old boyfriend is an influential business man and the girlfriend who once snatched him up is a successful real estate broker.  As Pepper starts asking questions, a murder occurs among one of the suspects and Pepper knows the killer doesn't want Lucy's body, nor the past, dug up.

I enjoyed this book more than I did the previous one. Perhaps part of that is the absence of her annoying boyfriend.  Granted I only met him in "Tomb With a View" and they had already broke up, so my opinion of him is probably tainted.  I related to Pepper even more in this book than the previous. She seemed less spoiled and a bit more sensible.  

I really loved the drawing on the sixties culture for this mystery, it was richly portrayed.  The two teenagers in the book, the ghost Lucy and Ella's daughter Ariel, both were great depictions of dramatic and moody teenage girls while showing some innocence and growing pains.

The plot was good, although I had my strong suspicion of who the killer was and a rough idea of how it was done, the motive was slowly revealed.  I enjoyed the plot and the storytelling which did its job of entertaining.  The climatic revealing of the killer was good and tense.  The wrap up had an interesting twist that left the book with a cliff hanger and I am waiting to see how that is resolved in the next book.  This setups a turning point in the series with this book's ending.

The Pepper Martin series is a solid bet for anybody wanting an enjoyable cozy mystery with just enough paranormal to make it interesting.  The murders and investigation consistently deliver an entertaining ride and this seventh in the series shows it is still a strong go-to series.

A central event to the book is the infamous Beatles concert in Cleveland where the stage is rushed and police are overwhelmed.  This historical fact is used in the book.  The victim, Lucy, is supposed to be one of the girls who got on stage.  I found this news clip that shows some of what happened at that concert.

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Elizabeth Kerri Mahon said...

Great review! I'm now interested in trying this series, particularly this book.

A.F. Heart said...

Thank you Elizabeth,
I think you will enjoy it! Of course it has the sixties and the Beatles as a jumping point so that helps right off!

Ellis Vidler said...

I like a little paranormal element in mysteries, and this sounds interesting. I also like the book cover.

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