Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Spirited Gift - Joyce and Jim Lavene

A Spirited Gift
A Missing Pieces Mystery
Joyce and Jim Lavene
Berkley Prime Crime

As explained in the first installment of this fun series, Dae O’Donnell has a gift.  She can find lost items simply by holding hands with the person who lost the item.  Recently, during the events of A TOUCH OFGOLD, her gift has expanded.  Now when she touches an item, she can see details about it.  Sometimes the details are simply about where the item was made and how it arrived in Dae’s hands.  Sometimes, strong emotions remain with an inanimate object: love, fear, hate, envy, and occasionally joy.  She’s still working to control this new aspect of her gift and how to control feeling the attached emotions herself.  Fortunately, she lives in tiny Duck, North Carolina, where most inhabitants know about her gift and have used it (her grandmother had the same gift) and believe strongly in ancestral ghosts and superstitions. 
Dae is also Mayor of Duck, and had the great idea to throw a conference weekend for mayors in the area, since many of them deal with the same types of problems endemic to small island communities dependent on tourism.  During the meeting, there’s a storm.  It’s ‘only’ a trailing arm of a hurricane, but it does some damage.  The gala party Dae envisioned devolves into a bunch of mayors, some with families in tow, hanging out in the lobby of the Blue Whale, waiting for the power to be restored.  Getting a head count reveals that one mayor is missing: Sandi Foxx, onetime weathergirl, now mayor of nearby Manteo.  Sandi’s body is found on the grounds of the inn, under the wreckage of a storage shed.  It begs the question: what would she have been doing outside during the worst of the storm?

During the cleanup process, Dae gradually realizes that she’s got a new friend.  Even Dae, who has actively tried to talk to her mother’s spirit through annual séances with her friend Shayla, can’t believe this is happening.  Dae wanted to speak to her mother because she died unexpectedly, when the two were angry with each other.  What she gets instead is the ghost of locally-famous (an infamous) pirate Rafe Masterson.  He claims to have been executed unjustly and wants to prove that the local magistrate of his time framed him so that he can finally rest in peace.  In return, he’ll help Dae solve Sandi’s murder. 
If you’ve read this far, I know what you’re thinking.  But, pirate ghost notwithstanding, the authors never allow this story to devolve to the level of a Saturday morning cartoon.  What I enjoy most about these books is that the authors treat the paranormal elements in a very organic and respectful way.  Every community has its own long-held set of beliefs and the people here understand Dae’s gift and have used it when the need arises.  Every schoolkid in the area grows up hearing and loving the stories about the pirates that plied their trade just off shore and who sometimes, when the weather is right, still sail their ghostly ships.  It’s just a part of local life.
So, yes, there’s a pirate ghost.  But when all is revealed, Rafe’s story is that of a real person; layered and affecting.  His story isn’t neat and clean, and it brings up other facts relating to another locally famous murder case.  This one happened a mere thirty years ago, but the community in general is still feeling the reverberations of it.  Readers of the series will have a deeper appreciation of this, since this plot figured heavily in the first book, A TIMELY VISION.  Strangely, that leaves Sandi’s murder and the surrounding events as the most recent, but least interesting storyline.  Knowing how things work in Duck, though, there might be further revelations in a few decades.  For those following along with Dae’s blossoming relationship with FBI agent-turned-innkeeper Kevin, there’s quite a surprise in the last lines of this one.

Rating: 7 ½
December 2011
ISBN# 978-0-425-24502-6 (paperback)


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