Whispers of Warning
Change of Fortune Mystery, Book #2
By Jessica Estevao
Author’s website: www.Jessicaestevao.com
Brought to you OBS Reviewer Daniele
Partially reformed con artist Ruby Proulx is starting to feel at home in her aunt’s seaside hotel. She loves the feeling of being rooted in one place and also feels a sense of purpose as she helps her aunt keep her business afloat by acting as a psychic medium for the hotel’s metaphysically inclined guests.
When one of the guests, renowned Spiritualist and outspoken suffragist Sophronia Foster Eldridge, checks into the hotel for a month-long stay, Ruby finds her sense of purpose expand outside the confines of home and family. Sophronia takes Ruby under her wing and mentors her in the mediumistic abilities, encouraging her to work for a woman’s right to vote. But not everyone is as happy with Sophronia’s appearance in Old Orchard. When her body is found floating in the saltwater plunge pool of a local bathhouse, Ruby takes it upon herself to solve the murder, and in the process learns that Sophronia was hiding some secrets of her own.
Whispers of Warning, the second book in the Change of Fortune Mystery series, combines a wonderful setting, an interesting angle, and compelling characters to make a pleasing read.
Ruby has only been living in Old Orchard, Maine, for a few weeks after she fled from her con man father to her aunt. Aunt Honoria runs the Belmont hotel for spiritually inclined guests, and Ruby’s knack for reading people (a necessary skill when working in a travelling medicine show) serves her well in her new capacity as hotel medium. However, Ruby is not a fraud; she is a bit of a clairaudient and has heard a “guiding voice” all her life. Everyone in her adopted seaside town is excited for the new pier to open, drawing in loads of tourists. Honoria is particularly enthusiastic for the arrival of suffragist and self proclaimed medium Sophronia Foster Eldridge. A recommendation from Sophronia would mean a great deal more business for the Belmont. It quickly becomes apparent to Ruby that Sophnonia is not all that she appears to be and will do anything, no matter the cost to others, to further her cause. Of course, she is not popular with a lot of people so there are few that are distraught over her untimely death. The chief of police insists that her death is a suicide and calls the case closed, but Officer Warren Yancy feels otherwise, and solicits Ruby’s assistance in investigating the hotel guests and town residents.
To be honest, I had a hard time getting into this book. Perhaps because I have not read the first book in the series, Whispers Beyond the Veil, it took me a while to become invested in the characters. The murder does not take place until a good halfway into the story, which was plenty of time to strongly dislike the victim, but by that point I did not really care who killed her. In the setup leading up to the Sophronia’s death, we are introduced to many characters, and it was hard to tell who and what were important to the story ahead. The ending caught me off guard, as if I had missed a clue earlier in the book, but it did make perfect sense after the motive was explained.
That said, overall, I did enjoy Whispers of Warning. The seaside setting shines here, and Estevao’s descriptions immersed me in the coastal town at the turn of the century. The period of the book is just right, too. At a time when Spiritualism was all the rage, the Belmont hotel and its employees’ talents feel realistic and true. It is the perfect place for Ruby to find her new family and home. To me, the murder mystery takes second stage to the book’s focus on the suffrage movement. Estevao does not shy away from the resistance and negativity these women faced in their efforts to have a voice.
This is most of all a character driven story, and protagonist Ruby is smart and spunky but not without fault. She does have a rather unsavory past and secrets she will do just about anything to keep hidden which makes her immensely relatable. Don’t we all have things in our pasts that we regret or would just as soon no one be privy to? Her budding friendship with Officer Yancy is the best part of the book. I appreciate his skeptical nature and think his truth and law abiding character makes a fine foil for Ruby and her reformation in progress. Based on the last pages of the book, I look forward to seeing where their relationship goes, whether as friends or of a more romantic nature.
I recommend Whispers of Warning to fans of historical fiction and mysteries.