A school celebration is shadowed by a 200-year-old mystery. Can a noted ghostbuster unravel it?
Cresacre School may be tempting fate by building its bicentenary around an unsolved mystery: the disappearance of a group of nuns from the school, then called Cresacre Convent, centuries ago. Not coincidentally, the event is organized by alumna Arabella Tallis, who’s also the ladylove of music historian and sometime psychic investigator Phineas Fox (Chord of Evil, 2017, etc.). Diary entries from the 1790s interspersed with the present-day narrative show the piano prodigy Gina Chandos becoming the amorous target of predatory music master Cesare Chimaera. The school is now haunted by Ginevra, a ghost who’s the subject of much mystery and even more speculation. Ginevra’s also the subject of an opera written by Gustav Tulliver, whose niece Olivia was a classmate of Arabella’s and who’s now pressing the school to make the opera’s performance a centerpiece of the celebration. The school’s leaders aren’t wild about the idea even though the decidedly dotty Olivia has been a generous donor. They’d be even less enthusiastic if they knew about Olivia’s dark secret. Back when she was a student, Olivia brought her frenemy Imogen, a potential opera performer on whom Gustav had romantic designs, to rehearse with him in his basement studio and help him finish the opera. In the middle of a sudden argument, Olivia killed Imogen. As Gina’s relationship with Chimaera advances, Phin takes the measure of the strong-willed Olivia and proceeds accordingly.
Rayne’s third psychic mystery is less atmospheric but more volatile and unpredictable than her other work, with colorful characters and an inexorable threat of violence under the surface.