Thursday, September 14, 2017

Whispers Beyond the Veil - Jessica Estevao

Whispers Beyond the Veil
A Change of Fortune Mystery
Jessica Estevao


Ruby Proulx has spent her entire life moving from place to place with her father as part of a medicine show in 1890s Canada.  Ruby knows that they’re con artists.  Her father, who drinks too much and spends every cent he makes, sells ‘miracle cures’ to marks, hoping to leave town before the scammed get wise.  To make a few extra cents, Ruby gives readings with her late mother’s tarot cards.  It’s not a particularly happy life.  Now, at age 20, a terrible incident forces Ruby to flee the medicine show.  In truth, she’s happy to leave.  She decides to travel to Old Orchard, Maine, to connect with her mother’s family.  She has only an old letter and a photo to help her find her Aunt Honoria.

A life lived in tents, sleeping on cots has not quite prepared Ruby for the Belden Hotel, run by Honoria.  But she’s quick to adapt.  And Honoria is beyond thrilled to have her there.  Honoria installs Ruby in her mother’s old room; kept just for her should she ever arrive.  The summer season is starting, and Honoria has hired several Spiritualists to remain in residence.  Spiritualism has captured the nation, and many guests have booked into the Belden for exactly this reason.  Including one Leander Stickney, a paranormal investigator.  He claims to be searching for legitimate practitioners (mediums, card readers, and the like) but, in truth, he spends much more time exposing and ruining those he deems frauds.  He suspects everyone and threatens to ruin Honoria’s hotel.  When his dead body turns up on the beach, it looks like he might get his wish.

The author excels at setting the scene.  Old Orchard is a real place, and you’ll feel that you’ve visited it as you read this novel.  Each character is finely drawn.  The Spiritualists are not just there for kooky effect.  Abilities run in Honoria’s family.  She hopes Ruby has them, too.  After her life as a con, Ruby is terrified that Honoria or the authorities will discover her sordid past.  She does hear a voice, from time to time, but fears that makes her crazy, not gifted.  Officer Yancey, a local police officer, has an innate distrust of all thing supernatural, and that extends, sadly, to Ruby.  He’s sure there’s more to her than meets the eye.

Watching Ruby work to become a member of the family, as well as a member of the hotel staff, all while trying to hide her very real secrets, is equal parts fascinating and heartbreaking.  Honoria is a woman ahead of her time, too.  A woman who never married, who is determined to keep her family’s hotel running, would have been a rarity at the turn of the last century.  The mystery is seamlessly woven into this layered background.  Several people might have wanted Stickney to depart this world.  Uncovering the killer will take the combination of Spiritualism, and good old-fashioned police work.  As far as first installments in a new series go, this one is truly superior.

Rating: 8
September 2017

ISBN# 978-0-425-28160-4 (trade paperback)


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