When Death asks a favor, who can say no?
Melody Rush might be a typical young lady of 1952 if it weren’t for her ability to see and talk to spirits. After she takes up the case of Virginia Beal, a murdered prostitute, an encounter with Virginia’s pimp leaves her wounded in a frozen Pittsburgh ditch. Mel awakens to a visit from Death, who asks her to recover a mask that allowed him to fulfill his purpose of shepherding souls to the afterlife until it was stolen from him. Because she’s attuned to the dead and clever at finding things, Death sends her to the home of Alfonzo Arnie, from which his mask was stolen. There she encounters Arnie’s talking cat, Voe. In what passes for Mel’s everyday life, her mother’s still trying to get her to marry; her longtime friend, who’s now a policeman is in love with her; and the handsome doctor who took care of her in the hospital has asked for a date. Voe, who has moved in with her, offers advice Mel sorely needs because her normal and spirit lives become uncomfortably entwined as she tries to find Arnie’s killer and retrieve Death’s mask. On the plus side, existing in a zone between life and death enables Mel to work on the difficult and dangerous problem without dying herself.
Madden’s debut mystery is an offbeat combination of noir and the supernatural that could appeal to a wide audience.