The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait
Haunted Bookshop Mystery #7
By Cleo Coyle
Author’s Website: www.coffeehousemystery.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
While gathering a collection of vintage book cover paintings for a special event in her quaint Rhode Island bookshop, Penelope discovers a spooky portrait of a beautiful woman, one who supposedly went mad, according to town gossip. Seymour, the local mailman, falls in love with the haunting image and buys the picture, refusing to part with it, even as fatal accidents befall those around it. Is the canvas cursed? Or is something more sinister at work?
For answers, Pen turns to an otherworldly source: Jack Shepard, PI. Back in the 1940s, Jack cracked a case of a killer cover artist, and (to Pen’s relief) his spirit is willing to help her solve this mystery, even if he and his license did expire decades ago. (Goodreads)
The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait, the seventh entry in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series, is an intriguing puzzle with lots of emphasis on art and the characters series fans have come to love.
I am so glad that this series has new life after a long hiatus. I really enjoy the bookshop setting, Penelope, and ghost Jack. The unusual relationship between 1940’s era PI Jack and Pen is what makes this series so special. Their connection, especially through Jack’s dream-like memories, is skillfully handled by author Cleo Coyle. The historical flashbacks and Jack-era murder mystery is my favorite aspect of the story. I love how it plays a huge part in Pen’s current day predicament.
This installment finds Penelope and her Aunt Sadie busy with preparations for a special book event featuring Pulp Art covers. When Pen takes her friends with her to pick up paintings borrowed for the event, Seymour falls in love with a portrait of Harriett McClure, a distant relative of Pen’s husband and subject of local lore. However, when the collector dies and Seymour is attacked, Pen cannot help but wonder if the painting is cursed. As the body count rises, Pen and Jack try to figure out the secrets held within the painting and solve the murders.
Before reading this, I knew little of Pulp Art other than I recognized the style when I saw it. The exploration of this genre of art is really interesting here and provides a wonderful backdrop to both Jack’s 1940’s murder mystery and Pen’s. The art from Jack’s generation connects both storylines seamlessly. There are lots of clues for Pen to uncover leading to an ever-evolving list of suspects, and I did not figure out whodunit until they were revealed. A few other subplots added layers to the story, and everything came together nicely in the end.
The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait is a lot of fun. The paranormal element is just right and unexpectedly believable. Recommended to any cozy mystery reader but especially to those who enjoy a quasi-historical setting and ghosts.