Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Hard Day's Fright - Casey Daniels


A Hard Day’s Fright
A Pepper Martin Mystery
Casey Daniels
Berkley Prime Crime

Mystery/Paranormal

Due to car problems, cemetery tour guide Pepper Martin (TOMB WITH A VIEW) finds herself forced aboard the Cleveland train, or “rapid” as it’s called. As if public transportation isn’t enough to ruin her day, she finds herself confronted by a ghost. This is nothing new to Pepper; she can see and speak with the dead. They usually want her to solve their murder or to finish something they left undone. This teenager, Lucy, wants Pepper to find her body so her spirit can rest. It’s a fairly startling request, even for someone with Pepper’s background.

Lucy was riding the rapid with a bunch of friends on what was perhaps the best night of her life. It was the summer of 1966, and they’d all been to the Beatle’s concert. Lucy was thrilled with herself because she’d been brave enough (in the midst of a near-riot that almost stopped the concert) she’d jumped onstage and planted a kiss on Paul McCartney. Then the night turned sour. Her memories are fragmentary, but she knows she was blindfolded and put in a car trunk. She has no idea about the identity of her killer or where that person left her body. As far as everyone else is concerned, Lucy simply disappeared that night, never to be seen again.

A lot of the story – too much, for my personal taste – deals with Ariel, the teenaged daughter of Pepper’s boss, Ella. Ariel is rebelling and being generally obnoxious. Ella’s plan is to force her to come to the cemetery office every day after school, and hoping that Pepper can work some kind of change on her. She definitely has her moments, but a little of this kid goes a long way. When she’s not dealing with a teenager, Pepper is bemoaning the state of her relationship, or lack thereof, with a local detective. As it turns out, there’s a reason for this, but during the course of the book, it just seems like wallowing.

The story of Lucy and her final evening makes for a very good mystery. Pepper has to rely on Lucy’s hazy and incomplete recollections and the willingness of other people to re-open what is, at this point, a forty-five-year-old wound. Lucy is a great character and the reader really feels the tragedy of her life cut so violently short. The investigation takes some interesting twists and turns, and the resolution feels nicely complete. The plot twists continue until the final page, leaving Pepper at a crossroads. Readers who enjoy a dose of the paranormal in their mysteries should enjoy this series.

Rating: 7
April 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24056-4 (paperback)

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