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The Ghost and the Dead Man's Library    by Alice Kimberly order for
Ghost and the Dead Man's Library
by Alice Kimberly
Order:  USA  Can
Prime Crime, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Theresa Ichino

In this third case in the Haunted Bookshop mysteries, author Kimberly shows a confident and deft touch. She skillfully weaves several threads involving a suspicious death in the present, a knotty case in dead P.I. Jack Shepard's past, and complications in the heroine's personal life.

Penelope McClure, co-owner of Buy the Book, has a huge secret: her bookshop is haunted by Jack Shepard's ghost. Even he cannot (or will not) explain why; but the two have become friends, and Jack has proven helpful in previous murders in which Pen was involved. This time around, Pen and her aunt Sadie receive a complete collection of Edgar Allan Poe's works. They prove to be very valuable, and the two are happily anticipating a welcome boost to their cash flow.

However, there seems to be a dangerous secret attached to the books. The owner of the collection dies under circumstances Pen finds suspicious (the police do not), and a buyer of one of the volumes also suffers a deadly accident. A friend who is trying to decipher the Poe code is brutally attacked, as is Pen herself. To add insult to injury, she finds herself a suspect and suffers a humiliating arrest by police. Worst of all, she is concerned about her son's problems with a bully at school, and the possible negative effects on him because of her status as suspect.

Jack is a fascinating presence who links the various plot-lines. Pen calls on his street smarts and past experiences; nor is he slow to offer advice on how her son should handle the bully harassing him. Both protagonists are likeable and interesting, and Kimberly keeps the action moving swiftly. I found the mystery fascinating, and I was impressed by the way in which the author moved back and forth between Pen's dilemma in the present and Jack's case in the 1940s. As before, Pen also calls on her friends for help, and they come through in spades.

Kimberly opens each chapter with a literary quote that shows a wide range of reading tastes and often startles with its aptness decades later. Similarly, Jack's wry commentaries on modern life are thought-provoking. All in all, this is an entertaining mystery with a quirky cast of characters and an ingenious premise.

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