The Ghost & Mrs. McClure is a delightful cozy mystery centering on the main character of Penelope Thornton-McClure. A survivor of the harsh publishing world, Penelope makes the life-changing decision to leave New York City with her son Spencer, and, using the life insurance money from her husband’s death, becomes co-owner of her aunt’s independent bookshop in a small town in Rhode Island.
Determined to save the bookshop from closing and create a simpler life for herself and her son, Penelope sinks all her money into renovating the bookshop and preparing for their first major event, a book signing, with a very popular author. Two things occur on this momentous night for the bookshop, first the author drops dead in front of everyone and second, the bookshop’s resident ghost makes himself known to Penelope.
As the story unfolds, it seems the author’s death is the result of foul play with the bookshop suspiciously benefiting from the sensationalized turn of events. Penelope, just as a heroine should, takes the reins and decides to attack each problem head on. Realizing that she is not insane and accepting that she was, in fact, communicating with the ghost of Jack Sheppard, a PI who was murdered in that very bookstore back in 1949, our bookshop sleuth embraces her inner PI and with the help of Jack she unwinds the yarns of lies and deception to uncover the murder and prevent someone, including herself, from being falsely convicted.
This is the first book in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series by Alice Kimberly, which is the pen name used by Cleo Coyle to write the series. Furthermore, Cleo Coyle is the pseudonym used by the husband and wife team of Alice Alfonso and Marc Cerasini to write the Coffeehouse Mystery series. This was the main reason I wanted to read this book, as I am a huge fan of the Coffeehouse books.
Now, I am a fan of the Haunted Bookshop series; I thoroughly enjoyed this cozy mystery. True of the genre, I think, this book was a quick read as well as a good read. The mystery of the story was intriguing, but not so convoluted that you kept losing track of what was happening. This book introduced us to some wonderful characters, whom I hope make repeated appearances in further installments. Particularly, I love Penelope’s son, Spencer. Although he didn’t have a major role in this first book, his precocious nature leads me to think he might, in fact, have the sleuthing bug like his mom, and maybe even the ghost talking bug, too.
While I could definitely pick up on a few similarities in writing style between the two series, there is definitely a different tone to this Haunted Bookshop story. The plot is advanced at a decent rate and our heroine has the necessary obstacles to overcome in order to resolve the situation, but not so much that we lose faith in her ability. At first, I thought Penelope was going to be a doormat, especially after the interaction with the councilwoman and the history with her in-laws, but it turns out that she is one of the quietly strong ones. A woman who prefers peace and tranquility, but if push comes to shove, she turns into a warrior. All in all this book was a very good read and I would recommend putting it on your TBR pile, especially if you are a fan of the cozy mystery genre.