An apparition haunts a hotel in a small town in western New York state in this novel.
On a stormy fall night just before Halloween, a ghost appears to a server at the local inn in Akron. The specter seems to be leaving bloody footprints, which suddenly disappear. Shortly thereafter, Wendy Kulbrick, another server, is found on the third floor of the hotel with her head bashed in. No one ever goes on that floor, and Steve, the owner, doesn’t know how she got there. It is up to Senior Investigator Sgt. Mike O’Brien to solve the case. His job gets complicated when he attends a séance led by local librarian Rae Dembrowsky and a ghost speaks through O’Brien, revealing his own history with a spirit. The investigator had been in an accident with a friend named Greta, who died; he had never confessed his romantic feelings to her. Soon, he learns the inn has a history not only involving hauntings, but also a missing artwork called Lady with a Rose, assumed to be a valuable painting. Wendy and bartender Joe Frankenhauser are suspected of trying to find the portrait, which the owners failed to do. Meanwhile, Steve and his manager, Sharon Cottrell, attempt to keep the inn open and discover the new publicity is actually attracting customers. O’Brien has to figure out if Wendy was murdered by supernatural forces or by someone who saw her as competition for Lady. Will the sergeant crack the case and find peace with Greta? Mixing a ghost story with a more realistic mystery is Karl’s (Strange and Disturbing, 2016, etc.) best idea here. It allows her to build up her small town and populate it with intriguing characters. It also gives her a lot of red herrings for the whodunit. The biggest fault of the book is that readers don’t get a lot of scenes starring the two phantoms the author introduces. They don’t appear much, so the audience doesn’t get to know them well in present-day Akron and glimpses only brief histories. Since this is the first installment of a series, readers may find out more about them later. Otherwise, this is an engaging and tidy little tale.
A quick and lively read that should appeal to fans of both murder mysteries and ghost stories.