It has been more than a month awhile since Jeanne’s last review (Comic Sans Murder: A Dangerous Type Mystery by Paige Shelton), but she is back today. That is a very good thing.
Treadmill Books: Ghostal Living: A Hamptons Home and Garden Mystery by Kathleen Bridge
Meg Bennett is a decorator in Sag Harbor, currently working on an upscale B&B owned by a wealthy bibliophile who has bought what appears to be an unpublished novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The unveiling is to be held soon, at an Antiquarian Books Fair, but before that happens the man who authenticated the manuscript falls to his death from a cliff. Was it an accident, suicide, or murder? Who are we kidding?
This is the third book in the series but I had no trouble getting into the story. The writing flows well, and I reveled in the details of the rooms devoted to each author: Herman Melville, Emily Dickenson, Fitzgerald, etc. because the author tied the choice of items to the authors’ lives and time period, tossing out nuggets of information. Books are part of the décor, being restricted to the author’s work and those books he or she were known to have read or else probably would have had access to.
I also enjoyed the information about collectible books and the process by which a manuscript might be authenticated. There was enough detail to be interesting, but not enough to bog a reader down.
Meg herself is largely a delight, especially as she is profoundly hearing impaired but doesn't let that slow her down. She’s determined and intelligent, but she’s also apparently one of those “can’t make up my mind about which man I want” characters. I blame Janet Evanovich, with Stephanie’s inability to decide between Morelli and Ranger for popularizing this now all too common dilemma of two intriguing boyfriends. At the end of the book, one seems to be out of the running but Meg is already eying a new possibility. (Mercifully, the author spared us the confrontation after one beau catches her out with another, but I still had the sense of “been there, done that.”) I do like a bit of romance in my mysteries, but waffling is annoying as far as I’m concerned.
The other annoyance was that Meg fails to report things she should and likes to try to beard suspects in their dens.
The supporting characters were interesting for the most part and there was good use of “local color.” There were a couple of characters who existed just to be nasty and to distract the reader and Our Heroine, but overall there was a good solid plot and clues. Jo the overweight kitty was fun, and Meg made a fine reluctant feline guardian. The Bibliophile Bed and Breakfast is almost a character itself, complete with ghost story of sea captain’s wife who threw herself off the cliff after the news that her husband’s ship had gone down. I liked the writing style and the story moved well.
The writing is good enough that I largely overlook those transgressions; the pluses outweighing the minuses, in my opinion. The author’s next book is the start of a new series, but I’m not sure if Bridges is just branching out or if that signals the end of Hamptons Home and Garden. I rather hope not.
The titles in the series are Better Homes and Corpses, Hearse and Gardens, and Ghostal Living.