The Sign of Four Spirits
Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery #9
By Vicki Delany
Author’s website: vickidelany.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
Gemma Doyle won’t be spooked when a body shows up at the psychic fair in bestselling author Vicki Delany’s ninth Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery.
When a psychic fair arrives in West London, Gemma Doyle, owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, wants nothing to do with it. But somehow, at the urging of Donald Morris, an enthusiastic Sherlockian, she finds herself talked into attending a séance, along with baker and best friend Jayne Wilson, store assistant, Ashleigh, and former pop star Bunny Leigh.
But to her surprise, Gemma finds herself banned from the séance and shown the door. Curious, she listens in from outside the room. The medium informs a disappointed Donald that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle will not be able to make it tonight. Then, Gemma hears a voice cut off, a cry for help, a scream. Gemma bursts into the library to see that someone has collapsed on the table–dead. The windows are all locked, and Gemma was guarding the only door. Someone in this room is a murderer. But who?
The game is once again afoot for Gemma Doyle, as she hunts a killer. But, this time, is the killer of flesh and blood or had the medium summoned doom from beyond the veil?
I enjoy every visit to West London, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, especially when best friends Gemma Doyle and Jayne Wilson are on the trail of another killer. Co-owner of the Sherlock Holmes Bookstore and Emporium, Gemma has a few things in common with the fictional detective, including strong observational and interpretive skills. She and her great uncle, Arthur Doyle, a mostly silent partner, own the emporium and the 1756 saltbox house they share. Arthur, an octogenarian and retired seaman, is rarely in town. He prefers being at sea or visiting some of his old friends from his years in Her Majesty’s Service. Jayne does all the baking for, and manages, Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, adjacent to the bookstore and owned by Jayne, Arthur, and Gemma. Readers who appreciate locked-room murders will enjoy this particularly challenging one.
Gemma, a logical woman, does not believe in psychic phenomena, even after an encounter earlier in the year with…something unknown. When the psychic fair came to West London, her only interest was when one of her best customers, Sherlockian Donald Morris, sent many attendees to her bookstore for Sir Arthur’s writings on his belief in ghosts, fairies, and the paranormal.
Bunny Leigh, former teen pop star and the mother of Gemma’s shop assistant, Ashleigh, was going to a séance to contact someone once very special to her. Since Bunny wanted Ashleigh to go with her, Ashleigh assumed her mother wanted to communicate with the love of her life, Ashleigh’s father, who died before she was born. Donald was thrilled to attend so he could experience what Sir Arthur did when studying the paranormal. Ashleigh was nervous, and pleaded with Gemma to go and be there for her. Against her better judgment, Gemma planned to go, and took Jayne with her.
Several people attended the séance, but the psychic did not want Gemma there. Gemma had a reputation around town for “knowing things”, based on her observations, which may have been the reason she was ousted. Gemma sat outside the library of the private home they were in so she could still listen for drama and be nearby for Ashleigh.
The summer storm grew terrible, with thunder, heavy rain, and winds, adding to the already creepy atmosphere. The author offers delightful descriptions, one of which was when the storm became so fierce, that “rain threw itself against the windows”.
The medium, soon exhausted, wanted to stop early, then suddenly began “channeling” the voice of a man whom nobody seemed to recognize. The fourth “spirit” to be heard was a very angry man who had come to take the life of someone who had taken his. Gemma could hear thunder and rain, chairs shuffling, the medium scream, and a crash, then Jane yelled for Gemma to come help them. When she turned the lights on, all were horrified to see the medium’s head lying on the table. An antique hatpin was in the back of the woman’s neck, in a very exacting spot to guarantee immediate death.
Gemma had been involved with solving several murders to date, but does not want to be involved this time. Nobody she loves is a suspect or a victim, and it is her busiest season at work. Her boyfriend, Ryan, is the lead detective, and she doesn’t want to put a strain on their relationship without good reason.
I appreciate how each of the characters continue to grow throughout the series. Gemma’s intensity has softened, Jayne is a genuinely happy woman who is now planning her wedding, and Gemma and her older sister in London get along better most days. Ryan’s partner, Louise, even wanted Gemma’s observations on the potential suspects. All are defined with excellence through their actions, realistic conversations, and for Gemma, her thoughts.
I was completely stumped with regards to the medium’s killer. Gemma and the detectives thought they knew all the secret connections between those at the séance, no hidden tunnels or rooms were found, so somebody present had to be responsible. Plot twists removed possible suspects rather than point to just one. The conclusion was quite startling, and events finally made sense. No loose ends remained, and I was more than satisfied with the end. I highly recommend this mystery, and this series!