Alison Kerby returns in the newest Haunted Guesthouse Mystery series by E.J. Copperman. Alison, a single mother in her late thirties, runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison’s resident Internet expert, and Paul Harrison, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and her deceased father. It would seem that Alison, her daughter and her mother are the only ones who can see the ghosts. She now acknowledges the ghostly residents, and advertises the inn as a Haunted Guesthouse, specializing in Senior Plus Tours which include twice-daily ‘spook shows.’ As the book begins, her paying guests number six (delightfully including Joe Guglielmelli and Bonnie Claeson, real-life former owners of the sorely-missed Black Orchid Books in Manhattan).
Allison is asked by Det. Lt. Anita McElone of the Harbor Haven Police Department to look into the death of Martin Ferry, McElone’s ex-partner in the Seaside Heights Police Dept., which those cops had labeled death caused by accidental discharge of his gun, but which she thinks is murder. Alison’s ability to conduct a proper investigation is hampered a bit by the fact that she has to baby-sit the eleventh-month-old son of her best friend, Jeannie, but with help from her ghostly assistants, she proceeds. There are disturbing hints that the detective may not have been completely honest.
Of her parents, Allison says “They have a great marriage, despite her being widowed.” Of her father particularly: “he almost never turns down a request I make (and never turns down a request Melissa makes; it’s like he was born to be a grandfather and, thanks to the miracle of ghost technology, is finally getting the chance to fulfill his true destiny.)”
The writing is wonderful, with the author’s s trademark laugh-out-loud wit and intelligence, well-plotted mystery and very well-drawn characters, alive or otherwise.
My preference in mystery genres generally does not include either “cozies” or books dealing in the supernatural (not that there’s anything wrong with those, and many of my best friends love them, I hasten to add). But this author’s writing overcomes any such reluctance on my part – – his books are always thoroughly delightful, and highly recommended. His dedication to several brilliant comics of years past ends with the words “there aren’t enough funny people in the world,” a deficit which he certainly helps to overcome.)
(Fiction Editor’s note: Copperman is a nom de plume of Jeffrey Cohen. If you’re a writer, regardless of genre, you need to look at his work. JG)