BookHound
Reviews and Recommendations by Mel Odom, Professional Writer

THE GHOST AND THE FEMME FATALE by Alice Kimberly

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Alice Kimberly’s Haunted Bookshop Mystery series is a treat for cozy mystery readers. The conceit of having a single mom team up with a ghost of a private eye from the late 1940s might not, on the surface, seem like it would work, but Kimberly has done a swell (to use the 1940s lingo) job over her last four books. The fifth book is due out in January 2009.

Alice Kimberly is a pseudonym for two writers. Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini are real life husband and wife. In addition to the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, they also write the Coffeehouse Mysteries under the name Cleo Coyle. They’ve authored several other books in addition to these two popular mystery series.

Penelope Thornton–McClure is hosting an author signing at Buy The Book, the bookstore she owns with her aunt Sadie. To complement the opening of the renovated Movie Town Theater and its Film Noir Festival, Pen has several authors lined up to sign books. The event turns out even more successful than the businessman involved expected after legendary and reclusive screen actress Hedda Geist agrees to do a signing.

One of the best things about this series is the supporting cast. Brainert and Seymour had me cracking up several times as they continued their longstanding feud. Fiona and Aunt Sadie weren’t on hand as much in this novel but they still lent their support when needed. Although I’ve never been to Rhode Island, I feel like I know this town well. I liked the way Bud has stepped forward to challenge Councilwoman Marjorie Binder-Smith for her seat. Even though the books can be read independently and in any order, there is an organic feel to them. The lives of the characters and the town are progressing and are part of the reason I keep returning to the series. I want to find out what happens to these people. It’s a good hook, and the authors do a great job of it.

Back in the day, Hedda Geist played femme fatales in cheaply made noir films. She was picked as a star on the rise and even headhunted by other studios. That all stopped the day she accidentally killed Irving Vreen, the studio exec she was contacted to. Those events continued to follow Geist around and basically killed her career before it really started.

Jack Shepard, the ghost PI that haunts Buy The Book, also crossed paths with Geist back in 1948 while on another case. He was investigating a local district attorney who was cheating on his wife. One of the interesting twists I liked about the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries series, and there’s a lot to like, is the way one of Jack’s old cold cases dovetails with the investigation Pen gets involved with. Sometimes the tie between the cases is obvious, but the novel takes unexpected twists and turns that always keep me turning pages to see if I’ve got everything figured out. In the end both cases get solved.

As always, the book is fast paced. Cozies aren’t traditionally known for fast pacing, nor for much in the way of changing locations. The authors deliver that pacing effortlessly and move the novel’s actions around town instead of stagnating in one place. The dialogue is exceptionally well done also. Knowing that a husband and wife are writing the books sometimes makes me wonder if they each write from a particular character’s point of view or if they have learned to write both points of view.

I always block out the time to read these books from cover to cover. Or as close to that as I can manage. The mysteries are challenging and interesting enough that I want to know if I’m as sleuthy as I like to think I am.

Like all the other books in the series, The Ghost and the Femme Fatale is a lighthearted romp with plenty of guesswork. Every time I thought I’d figured out who had done it in this one, that person ended up dead. The false leads were played perfectly and fairly. And this one kept me guessing all the way until the final few pages. Mystery novels just don’t get any better than this.

If you haven’t picked up a Haunted Bookshop Mystery before, this is a really good one to start with. You don’t have to worry about spoilers. If you like this one, you can go back and hunt down the earlier books.

2 Responses to “THE GHOST AND THE FEMME FATALE by Alice Kimberly”

  1. —Saw potential in THE GHOST AND MRS. MCCLURE so am looking forward to reading the series—have THE GHOST AND THE DEB just started. Enjoying it because I love the cozy genre. Brava!

  2. Love this series, can’t put the book down once I start reading it. Keep them coming, just finished “The Ghost and the Femme Fatale”. Each one is better than the one before it and they are all great. Thanks…….


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