The Ghost and the Femme Fatale
Berkley, May 2008, $6.99
Penelope Thornton-McClure (and her Aunt Sadie) owns Buy the Book bookstore in Quindicott, Rhode Island in which the ghost of murdered in 1949 detective Jack Shepard resides. Penelope is the only person who can hear Jack, who is confined to the bookstore; except when Penelope carries his buffalo nickel on her, which enables him to go where she goes.
The local theatre has been closed for years, but recently was renovated with the grand re-opening this weekend. The owners are putting on a Film Noir Festival with guests from a decades-old crime. The biggest draws are Hedda Geist and her former boyfriend actor Pierce Armstrong. Jack was at the restaurant in 1948 following a cheating husband when he saw Pierce get into a fight with Hedda’s married lover studio owner Irvin Vreen. Pierce shoved Irvin onto a knife Hedda was holding killing Vreen. He received five years for manslaughter.
In the present several people connected to the crime are killed; while the police assume they are accidents, Penelope and Jack think it is murder. They investigate and find several suspects, but none seemingly with a motive.
The hard boiled detective who is a ghost meets the bookstore owner in her dreams for a bit of romancing, which adds an esoteric whimsical spice to this wonderful cozy. Whereas the heroine would like to hide inside a good book, Jack shows her life needs to be lived; he proves to good a teacher as she makes him nervous when she takes chances while sleuthing. The mystery is cleverly designed so that most readers will need to stay till the last reel to figure out who the culprit is and why. Alice Kimberly’s latest “The Ghost and the Femme Fatale” is a charming whodunit for fans that prefer no explicit violence in their mysteries.