The penny-dreadful title conceals a truly unusual ghost story. The house next door to Emily Wakelin's is haunted. That's why embroiderer Emily and her new husband, John, a London accountant, were able to get a charming place like Holly Cottage in such a hurry; the previous tenants decamped one step ahead of the specter. And there's none of this I-didn't-see-a-thing nonsense, either; George and Lady Abigail Curran, the couple who hold court at Holly House, make no bones about the ghost--Lady Curran in the clipped, imperious tones she uses for every social activity, her crippled husband with disarming enthusiasm for every new apparition. A commission to create an altarpiece picturing martyred Walter Tappett, obscure patron saint of the Little Hocking church, leads Emily to a series of slyly amusing run-ins with local dragon Margaret Witherley-Bashe, omnipotent head of the chapel committee. At the same time, she becomes more and more convinced that the restless spirit she's encountered at Holly House- -the hand that took her hand during her first visit, the sigh that prompted George Curran's approving outburst, the despairing moan in her own workroom--is Tappett's, and that his pleas for help and rest are merging his importunate personality with her own. But why can't the sainted Tappett rest in peace? With John stranded on a business trip to America, Emily is forced to confront a ghost whose history is twined around the church, the neighbors' family, and her own deepest beliefs. Boyle (Maiden's End, 1989, etc.) unfolds a ghost story that's spooky but not scary, thanks to the generous comic relief provided by grandes dames Curran and Witherley-Bashe--and a piquant emphasis on the spiritual nature of spirits in this Protestant corrective to Anne Rice.