Give Up the Ghost
A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #6
By Juliet Blackwell
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
From the New York Times bestselling author of Keeper of the Castle, San Francisco contractor and ghost whisperer Mel Turner must solve a murder mystery at a haunted mansion in the Pacific Heights…
San Francisco millionaire Andrew Stirling wants to sell his Victorian mansion, but ghostly music, the squeaking of a long-disappeared weathervane, and an angry ghost keep running off potential buyers. After a famous psychic is called in, she informs the Stirlings that their multi-million-dollar renovations to “update” the home have left its resident ghost extremely agitated. So contractor Mel Turner is engaged to track down and replace some of the original features of the house.
But when the beautiful psychic is found stabbed, it appears someone had a very human motive for murder. Now Mel must use her ghost whispering gift to uncover the secrets of the haunted house on the hill, and her sleuthing skills to catch a killer. (from Goodreads)
What a captivating and at times funny read! This is the first book I’ve read in the Haunted Home Renovation Mystery Series; I was able to quickly get up to speed with the regular characters and delightful setting. Mel Turner has taken over the operations of the company her father started, Turner Construction, and has worked with the renovations of many high-end homes and other projects in San Francisco. It is beyond my comprehension that the latest mansion she has been called to bid a remodel on has a price tag of $29 million! It is enormous though, with incredible views, many rooms, and many glamorous historic features. However, the recently remodeled home has one little problem…a ghost or ghosts that frighten away potential buyers.
Mel has become a kind of ghost whisperer in recent years, fumbling her way into learning to invite ghosts to leave and helping resolve their ‘issues’ that have kept them hanging on to their former life. She can see them – when they want to be seen – and can sometimes establish a kind of working communication with them – even if they throw eggs and flour on her.
Mel plans to tour Crosswinds with the psychic, Chantelle, who had met with the family and spent time in the mansion. Chantelle had said the ghosts would not be at peace until some of the things removed in recent renovations were brought back and some of the changes removed. When Mel went to the upscale apartment where Chantelle lived, however, she was a little too late. The door was not closed, and a man knelt over the dead body of Chantelle, a quite messy knife alongside her. The man is Chantelle’s brother, Landon Demetrius, who had just arrived in town. As they await the arrival of the homicide detective Mel has become acquainted with, Annette Crawford, Chantelle’s ghost looks back for a moment before going up in the elevator.
The police investigation begins concurrently with Mel’s work in the Flynt mansion. She becomes acquainted with all of the family members. Landon begins to help her, even saving her life one day when a truck smashed into the salvage yard where they were looking at materials she could use on the widow’s walk. Mel hears that someone is embezzling from the Flynt’s latest revenue producing business. Whether they were hacked into or if a family member or employee is involved, the audit coming before the company’s IPO will at least give them an idea how much disappeared. Mel’s study of those who lived at Crosswinds in the past and a woman whose ghost cleans the kitchen in a house that is now a rental for students is ingenuous. What surprises her, however, is the lack of information on the mansion itself.
Mel is a hard-working woman, as is her best friend Luz, and Annette, who barely know what a full day off looks like. As well-established characters, they are fully defined. Mel’s dad, Bill, their friend Stan, and her ex-stepson Caleb are also fully developed. Those who are part of this particular mystery, including the Flynt family, Egypt, who house sits for them, Landon, and the ghosts of Crosswinds, Peregrine Summerton and his daughter Flora are so three dimensional that I can almost picture them.
The plot is unique, at least to me, as I’m not familiar with novels where the protagonist receives help from resident ghosts to solve murders or other mysteries. Mel is a bright, intuitive woman and quite capable of overseeing historic home renovations, solving murders, even talking a few recalcitrant ghosts into departing. I appreciated Mel, especially enjoying her family gatherings when her dad gets into his cooking mode. To me, this is the heart of Mel’s life and a place where she can talk over her ideas and concerns to gain better perspective. It is much more to her than merely where she eats, sleeps, and takes care of the paperwork for Turner Construction. The plot twists and fascinating secrets in the mansion kept me on my toes, and the bad guy and/or bad gal was not someone I even considered as a suspect!
Juliet Blackwell is adept at writing a humorous blend of the organized, black-and-white world of construction and the nebulous, intangible sphere of ghosts; in Mel she has developed a woman who could learn to fully embrace her skill as a contractor and her ‘gift’ of seeing ghosts. I highly recommend ‘Give up the Ghost’ for those who enjoy paranormal mysteries with personable protagonists and tangled plots; it can be enjoyed by adults of all ages.