Kimberly, Alice. The Ghost and Mrs. McClure. New York: Berkley, 2004.
🙂 🙂 🙂
It’s that time of year when people tend to look for “cozy” reads. (Usually,anyway. With the weather we’ve been having lately, people might be searching for beach reads). I know it seems like a contradiction to call a murder mystery that features a ghost “cozy,” but The Ghost and Mrs. McClure by Alice Kimberly definitely fits the bill. I actually discovered this book through a library patron who was busy reading her way through the series and recommended it. I like to read books in order, so I pulled the first one in the series off the shelf, and I immediately liked the premise: a woman who owns Buy the Book, a mystery bookstore located in a small town on the coast of Rhode Island (aren’t all towns in Rhode Island on the coast?), discovers that her shop is haunted by a 1940s era P.I. who was murdered in the shop and is now forever stuck inside. Fast forward to the 21st century. When a bestselling author comes to the store to promote his new book and to sign copies of it, he is also murdered, and our ghost comes to the aid of proprietor Penelope Thornton-McClure to help her figure out whodunnit.
If I were to write mysteries, this would be the mystery I’d write. I’d never write mysteries, though. I know nothing about police work and the law or things like guns, and I’d have to do way too much research and conduct way too many interviews. If I’d written this mystery, though, I would have tried less hard with the Hammett-Chandler-Macdonald imitation in some of the sections. A little would have gone a long way, especially since Kimberly isn’t really good at pulling off this kind of writing. Some can, but not Kimberly. I’ve since found out the likely reason for this. Alice Kimberly is a husband-wife team, and it’s pretty obvious the book isn’t written by one person.
One thing this husband-wife team did manage to pull off, though, is moving back and forth between first-person narrative and third-person without driving me nuts. I’m not a huge fan of changing narrative voice unless there’s a good reason for it. Despite the fact that it didn’t bother me, I’m not quite sure why they chose to do it. Keeping it all in the third-person and dropping the “tough P.I. talk” except when Jack the Ghost is actually “talking” to Penelope would have made more sense.
One other thing I didn’t like about the book was a dream sequence in which Penelope “meets” Jack in the flesh. Nobody dreams like that, not even (I’m sure) when ghosts are manipulating dreams. I know, it seems a novel with a P.I. who doesn’t make a move on a “doll” would be incomplete, but please. This was so forced and unrealistic. It either needed to be explained better, or it needed to be cut.
So, the writing wasn’t seamless. I easily pegged the murderer early on, and the authors tried too hard. It sounds like I didn’t like the book. Inexplicably, though, I did, probably because I loved all the characters in this quirky little Rhode Island town. I need another series on which I’m hooked like I need to stumble across a dead body of my own. Still, I’m hooked. Maybe Kimberly’s writing will get a little better as I get deeper into the series, and if not? Well, when one is eating gummy bears, one doesn’t demand that they be a seven-course meal at a 5-star restaurant. I’ll turn back to Chandler, et al. next time I’m in the mood for something sublime. Meanwhile, this is fun, and a perfect thing to curl up with in an overstuffed chair, preferably with an afghan on your lap, a cat on top of the afghan, and a pot of tea on the table next to you.