When a woman inherits a house, she must contend with both a ghost and a murder she’s determined to solve in this mystery.
Twentysomething Jesse Graham is ready to be independent. She’s moving to a small town in 1968 New York, where her inheritance from Aunt Helen awaits: an old, dilapidated home. It’s not ideal, but it’s a way to escape her indifferent mother and cheating ex-fiance, Robert Cronmiller. Jesse secures a teaching gig at St. Bartholomew’s, thanks to her nun friend Maggie, and sets about taking care of the house’s substantial mouse population. After befriending locals, including neighborly Joe Riley, Jesse’s shocked to learn that Helen’s death 20-plus years ago wasn’t an accident, but a suicide. She’s inclined to believe rumors of murder, however, once she suspects late-night noises in the house are Helen’s spirit asking for help. Jesse launches her own investigation, with assistance from cop Marty D’Amato, to prove someone killed her aunt. Her snooping and mingling with the townsfolk have made at least one individual skittish, as someone runs Jesse’s ’65 Beetle off the road and later leaves her a threatening note. She may be unfazed by the ghostly presence in her home, but an evil of the flesh-and-blood variety is something to fear, especially in light of a more recent murder. Meyette’s (Love’s Spirit, 2014, etc.) book starts as a ghost story but quickly becomes a mystery; any apprehension from the spooky dwelling, in fact, is immediately vanquished when Jesse declares herself unafraid. Nevertheless, a palpable menace generates suspense and a sense of urgency to track down Helen’s murderer(s). The protagonist’s desire to “depend solely on herself” isn’t entirely convincing, as she has a house, free and clear (with taxes paid by a trust), and a job Maggie practically hands to her. But her resolve as an amateur sleuth is admirable, and her reluctance to dive into a new relationship (considering how the last one ended) makes her wisely cautious. Jesse often subverts cynicism with humor: “It’s the living who haunt me,” she ominously asserts, before clarifying she means the house’s former rodent and arachnid residents.
A teacher champions women’s liberation in the ’60s by stepping into the role of detective with guile and efficacy.