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The Ghost and the Dead Deb: A Haunted Bookshop Mystery    by Alice Kimberly order for
Ghost and the Dead Deb
by Alice Kimberly
Order:  USA  Can
Berkley, 2005 (2005)

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* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

This is the second novel by Alice Kimberly (I'm sorry I missed the first one) featuring bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and the ghost who haunts Buy the Book. Tough-guy private eye Jack Shepard died in the forties and for some reason (perhaps because his files have come to rest at Penelope's bookstore?) is constrained to the premises.

The concept is intriguing, and Kimberly has fun with the incongruous duo. Pen is respectable and law-abiding, a young widow with a nine-year-old son, who is determined to make her own way apart from the suffocating control of her snobbish in-laws. Shepard is hard-boiled, streetwise, and accustomed to a time with fewer restrictions on detectives and cops. He is also unimpressed by the laxity of modern behaviour and morals. In addition to her resident ghost (Pen has decided to stop wondering if she's going insane and just accept him as a reality), she has the support and help of her friends in the Quindicott Business Owners Association, aka the Quibblers. This is fortunate, as she once again finds herself embroiled in murder.

Angel Stark, sexy author of a tell-all true crime book, is in Quindicott for an author-signing at Buy the Book. She has stepped on several toes: the suspects are all high society, beautiful people with time, money, and influence. Angel was part of that crowd, and her book is viewed by many as exploitation and betrayal. Her reading at Buy the Book is interrupted by a nasty outburst, and a car nearly hits her as she leaves the bookstore. Then Angel disappears, along with the nephew of one of Pen's Quibbler friends. Young Johnny Napp was a suspect in the murder of Bethany Banks, at the time a catering worker. Although there was insufficient evidence to convict him, he remains under a cloud. He becomes a suspect again when Angel's body is discovered.

Kimberly proves adept at juggling a complicated story line. Not only is Pen investigating two killings (Angel's murder is tied to Bethany's, and both have links to the McClures), she is also drawn into one of Jack's cases from the forties. The Ghost and the Dead Deb seems like light and light-hearted reading, because the author has done a masterful job of putting it all together.

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