A schoolteacher takes a second stab at sleuthing when a possible ghostly presence at an all-girls academy is compounded by a definite murder in this mystery.
Jesse Graham’s understandably horrified when her precarious thunderstorm drive ends with a body in the road. Turns out it’s only a dummy with a dreadful but grammatically incorrect message, “Your next,” written on it, a potentially dangerous prank from one or more of the students at nearby St. Bartholomew’s. The next day is Jesse’s first day as the new English teacher, just three months after moving to Seneca Corners in upstate New York in the summer of 1968. Jesse suspects the school’s haunted, based on inexplicable sounds of drums in the locked basement, as well as a now-familiar sensation, having contended with a ghost in her own home. That spirit, however, was benevolent, whereas the one at school is, Jesse believes, more threatening. Looking for clarification regarding the prank and the basement gets Jesse nowhere, as it seems no one wants her snooping or making inquiries. The mystery deepens when, at a gathering, someone fires a shot at Jesse, and later there’s another body in the road—a human one this time. A missing student and a suspicious death subsequently confirm an unmistakable menace, who may next be targeting Jesse. As in Meyette’s (The Cavanaugh House, 2016, etc.) preceding novel, the likelihood of a phantom doesn’t unnerve as much as it augments the mystery. Learning who the ghost is, for example, takes precedence. The dense plot’s undeniably riveting, even its melodrama: Jesse, fresh from a horrid relationship, has two worthy suitors in affable construction worker/company owner Joe Riley and dashing equestrian coach Scott Stanton. She’s also determined to be self-reliant, despite her recent discovery that she’s heir to a fortune. Jesse’s an indelible protagonist, never afraid to say what she’s feeling but readily acknowledging when she may have hurt someone—like emphasizing Joe’s a friend in front of Scott. Unfortunately, though thriller components generate suspense (for example, what exactly is happening in the school’s tunnels?), an explanation near the end isn’t wholly satisfying and leaves behind quite a few questions.
Readers may wonder whether there’s anything the tenacious investigator can’t handle—while eagerly awaiting sequels.