An Alabama cop, living with ghosts and a family of mediums, may have found a link between jewelry stolen from her home and a recent murder case in this supernatural debut.
Alma Sue Babineaux’s family home, BonHaven, is already a full house with Al’s momma, granddaddy, aunts, and little sister, Lyci. But otherworldly guests fill it to capacity, from Wallace and John (poltergeist-esque Uglies) to Thruman, a Trow (essentially a short troll). Keeping the ghostly residents in line isn’t easy; Thruman, for one, gets a kick out of throwing clumps of dirt at Al. But things only get worse when her younger brother Jimmy-Don, an aspiring TV star, shows up at BonHaven with his ghostbusting crew. Jimmy-Don’s fascinated by Bastian, an ancient Spanish oak tree near the property line and an apparent lure for inexplicable occurrences. Bastian’s also the place where someone’s left a body and strange carvings, possibly voodoo symbols, on the tree. Back at BonHaven, a fortune in antique jewelry mysteriously vanishes. Not only does Al suspect that somebody’s creeped into the home and snatched the jewels, she soon sees a connection between the theft and the Bastian murder case. Al, partner Bobby Glen Taylor, and handsome, viable romantic interest Carlyle Baveras struggle to put the pieces together to find a thief—and/or a killer. The largely tongue-in-cheek tale, unquestionably a series opener, wisely concentrates on its delightfully bizarre characters. Aunt Merle, for example, “accidentally time travels in her sleep,” while Momma’s dog, Cooper, loves to sprint through a room chasing Thruman, an incident that occurs so often that no one even acknowledges it. But the narrative’s shifting perspective is somewhat bewildering. It starts with Al logging the typically peculiar events into a diary at BonHaven but later bounces from first- to third-person and back, with readers often privy to information Al doesn’t have—like Carlyle’s scintillating secret. Occasional mistakes add to the confusion: inconsistent spellings of certain names (Bastian, in several instances, is “Bastion”), the titles officer and detective used synonymously, and Al’s dad described separately as both missing and dead. Nevertheless, Al is a smashing protagonist, and one can only hope she’ll display her oft-mentioned wrestling skills in a sequel.
Structural issues aside, the story’s characters, human or otherwise, gleefully soak up the spotlight.