Thursday, September 28, 2017

Whispers of Warning - Jessica Estevao



Whispers of Warning
A Change of Fortune Mystery
Jessica Estevao
Berkley

Mystery

Miss Ruby Proulx is settling in at her Aunt Honoria’s hotel in turn-of-the-century Old Orchard, Maine.  After a lifetime spent travelling with her father, a snake oil salesman in a medicine show, a stable home with a lock on a real door, seems like the ultimate luxury.   Her aunt, her mother’s sister, welcomed Ruby with open arms and heart, and installed Ruby in her mother’s old room.   For many years, Ruby has heard a ‘voice’ speaking in her ear, offering guidance and advice.  She kept that voice to herself, fearing that people would think her mad.  To her surprise, her aunt is thrilled with this information.  Honoria is well-versed in all things spiritual.  She has prophetic dreams; her sister had the same kind of ‘voice’ in her ear.  In order to compete with the surrounding hotels – which are larger and offer more amenities – Honoria has staffed her smaller Hotel Belden with Spiritualists to cater to her like-minded guests. 

It’s not spiritualism drawing a crowd to Old Orchard on this day.  Miss Sophronia Foster Eldridge is coming to town to give a speech.  Miss Foster Eldridge travels the country, speaking in support of women’s suffrage.  Ruby is surprised to see her friend, Officer Warren Yancey, already present at the gathering.  He’s worried about a riot; doubly so, since his mother and sister (Lucy, Ruby’s closest friend) are also in attendance.  Ruby thinks he’s overreacting until the shouting begins.  There’s a nasty exchange between Miss Foster Eldridge and a man in the audience.  Many men are unhappy about women agitating for the right to vote.  It seems personal to this man, Congressman Plaisted.  Shortly after that, the fruit begins to fly and Yancey is forced to clear the area. 

 Ruby feels uneasy about their guest.  The suffragist, who once ran a newspaper dedicated to that cause, spoke with true passion and zeal.  In the heat of the argument, though, Miss Foster Eldridge went into a trance on stage and channeled a spirit.  It seems an odd combination.  When Ruby asks about it, the suffragist explains that it’s really a way to hook the audience.  Spiritualism is very popular, and it draws more people to her speeches.  Even for someone who spent her life in a medicine show, this seems a bit mercenary.  Clearly, someone else agrees with Ruby’s feelings.  The body of Miss Foster Eldridge is found in a pool at another hotel.  She was bizarrely dressed in a man’s coat, the pockets filled with rocks.  It might look like suicide, except for the obvious head wound.

This series, beginning with WHISPERS BEYOND THE VEIL, is very unique in both setting and background.  I advise readers to check out the Historical Notes at the end of each novel.  As it turns out, Old Orchard is a real place.  The author did such a wonderful job of describing it that, when I saw old photos, the photos matched my mental images almost exactly.  Ruby is a heroine with a past.  That past very much informs her present, and her reactions to circumstances.  The relationships among the characters are complicated, layered, and long-standing, creating an involving group of characters.  The mystery plot is fascinating and involves not only the main characters, but also some machinations going on behind the scenes.  It’s quite realistic.  I’m already looking forward to more of Ruby, Honoria, and the Belden Hotel.   


Rating: 8.5
September 2017

ISBN# 978-0-425-28161-1 (trade paperback)

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