Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Ghost And The Femme Fatale - Alice Kimberly


The Ghost And The Femme Fatale
A Haunted Bookshop Mystery
Alice Kimberly
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery

The small town of Quindicott, Rhode Island, is having a film noir festival. With the help of some film historians and professors, the locals have completely refurbished the old, single-screen movie house to its original Art Deco glory. The festival will be a celebration, tied to several other events in town, including a book signing at Buy the Book, Penelope (Pen) Thornton-McClure’s bookshop. The crowing achievement of the festival is the attendance of onetime starlet Hedda Geist, star of the festival’s opening-night film.

Pen doesn’t really need the film experts who will speak after the movie. She’s got a built-in resource in the ghost of Jack Shepard, a private investigator who died in the shop in 1949. For some reason, he connected with Pen when she arrived, and together, the two of them have been instrumental in solving mysteries. Of course, his participation goes unnoted by others.

After the premiere noir film, visiting expert Dr. Lilly begins some prepared remarks, including a plug about the book signing to be held the next day. During her speech, Hedda Geist is recognized in the audience and takes the stage to much applause, followed by her look-alike granddaughter. Just as she reaches the microphone, the newly installed speaker crashes to the floor, narrowly missing her. What looks like an accident may be merely a dress rehearsal for the real crime. The next morning, Pen finds Dr. Lilly dead in her bookshop. It appears that she merely fell from a ladder, but given the previous night’s events, Pen and Jack aren’t so sure.

The events of the present day are nicely interwoven with a case from Jack’s past, also involving Hedda and her former film studio. It’s a unique approach to a cozy mystery series (THE GHOST AND THE DEAD MAN’S LIBRARY) and the author excels at blending the two, with more than a touch of noir and the paranormal. The end result is something more than the sum of its parts. Readers interested in checking out noir films will find the text sprinkled with titles from which to choose. As always, Pen is as realistic as Jack is cynical. They’re an odd couple, but together they make for a great detective team.

Rating: 7 ½
May 2008
ISBN# 978-0-425-21838-9 (paperback)

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