First in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series set in a bookstore, Buy the Book, in Quindicott, Rhode Island.
The second item on the agenda is booking an author appearance with Timothy Brennan, author of that very popular detective series, Jack Shield, when his latest book, Shield of Justice comes out. With such a popular author, Pen hopes it will help put Buy the Book a bit higher up on the map not expecting that the author will drop over dead and incite a frenzy of book buying.
It takes the ghost of the real Jack “Shield” Shephard to make Pen understand that she’d better solve this murder before she’s arrested for it.
Penelope Thornton-McClure is newly widowed after her husband leapt to his death from their New York City apartment building. When she hears from her Aunt Sadie that she is about to close the family bookstore, she and her young son, Spencer, head up to Rhode Island and invest the life insurance money in the shop.
Spencer is 8-years-old and the center of a tug-of-war between his mother and the very wealthy McClures. They don’t believe Pen is adequate to raise this young McClure and Pen is worried they’ll find some way to take him from her. Her Aunt Sadie is a short, no-nonsense lady who welcomes Pen and Spencer.
Jack Shepard was looking to help an old Army buddy of his from World War II when he was murdered in 1949 in the bookstore. Unable to leave, Jack has passed the time since with long bouts of sleep and scaring or playing jokes on anyone in the bookstore.
Other townspeople include Linda Cooper-Logan and Milner Cooper who run Cooper Family Bakery. Linda excels at comfort food while Milner specializes in French pastry; J. Brainert Parker is an English professor and one of the investors in the old movie theater; Fiona Finch is a nosy parker who owns Finch’s Inn along with her husband, Barney, Quindicott’s only hotel; Marjorie Binder-Smith, a very opportunistic town-councilwoman out for her main chance (and screw the public); Vinny Nardini is the town delivery man; Officers Welsh Tibbet and Eddie Franzetti are two of the eight policemen for Quindicott; Syemour Tarnish is the town postman, ice cream man, and a Jeopardy winner; Bud Napp owns Cranberry Street Hardware; and Mr. Koh who owns Koh’s Grocery Store.
Timothy Brennan turns out to be a major jerk with a very unwelcome announcement. Turns out he was also a contemporary of that Jack Shepard. The same detective on whom Brennan bases the main character of his series. We get some major insight during Brennan’s little speech where we learn just what Jack thinks of his “old friend”…and Pen gets her first “introduction” to the bookstore’s resident ghost.
Other characters particular to this story include Deirdre and Kenneth Franken, Brennan’s daughter and son-in-law; Shelby Cabot, the publicist from Brennan’s publisher; Josh Bernstein, Cabot’s assistant; and, Anna Worth, an heiress who was harassed by Brennan in print.
The start is a bit confusing as Kimberly begins after the murder and jumps back and forth filling in the blanks until we’re caught up. I have read other books which have, rarely, successfully used this technique to catch the reader’s interest but I see no purpose for it here. I wish Kimberly had done a bit more with the Anna Worth character; seemed to be just a bit of filler without much purpose. I also have a difficult time believing that Penelope can be that naïve to think that Brennan falling over dead is the kiss of death for the bookstore. After all the years she spent in publishing in New York City, you’d think she’d understand what a killer opportunity it was!??
That said, The Ghost and Mrs. McClure‘s only similarity to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a hard-bitten male character concerned for the missus’ welfare. Jack certainly does express his interest in Pen’s, ahem, figure and seems able to bring Pen over into his world through her dreams with some fairly physical results.
There isn’t much drama or tension in the story but it is a cute and homey start to this series and I’m looking forward to reading The Ghost and the Dead Deb. It will be challenging to see how Pen and Jack handle this as Jack is not able to move outside of the brick-and-mortar of the shop.
The cover makes me think of Frank Lloyd Wright’s stained glass as it frames the 1940-ish graphic of an old-fashioned bookstore interior complete with floating hat…Mr. Shepard’s I presume?