Tuesday, July 03, 2012

The Portrait of Doreene Gray by Esri Allbritten

Esri Allbritten's debut mystery, Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, made my list of best books of 2012. It had an unusual cast of characters, an original premise, a fun mystery, and humor. And, some readers loved the Chihuahua. There's another Chihuahua in the second book, The Portrait of Doreene Gray, and this book is just as entertaining as the first.

The staff of Tripping Magazine is always looking for unusual stories. The magazine is a guide to paranormal destinations, which enables the small staff to travel around the country to cover stories that might have a paranormal element. "Small staff" means Angus MacGregor, the editor and co-founder, Michael Abernathy, the main writer, who is a cynic who doesn't believe in the paranormal, but does believe in a steady paycheck, and Suki Oota, the sexy, mysterious photographer. The unlikely team is headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, but this time, their story takes them to Port Townsend, Washington, where a portrait is to be auctioned. Doreene Gray is 58, doesn't look a day over thirty, and she's selling the portrait her identical twin sister, Maureene Pinter painted of her. Maureene has aged, and so has the painting, but not Doreene.

Angus has all kinds of theories about the mysterious painting that no one has actually seen in years. He sees it as a good story for readers who enjoy the uncanny, and the twin element will add to the unusual tale. Soon after they arrive, they're invited to stay at the house after threatening strips of paper are found in the soup. The housekeeper swears she saw spirits of the dead crawling across the ground. And, Doreene's hunky Argentinian boyfriend swears the painting is possessed, and begs her to sell it. When weird events at the house get out of hand, all sorts of family members show up to claim ignorance about the painting. A family out of control, mysterious strangers, threats, slugs in the bedroom, a haunting portrait. Angus is thrilled to be covering this story filled with family secrets. Michael is determined to find solutions grounded in reality. And Suki is determined to rescue Doreene's Chihuahua, Gigi.

Allbritten skillfully mixes mystery, humor, and history in her story. As in the first book, this one not only has a mystery involving a family, but there are mysteries that surround Port Townsend and nearby locales as well. She brings in the local history. There's the story of the S.S. Valencia, a steamship that ran aground with an enormous loss of life. The magazine staff visit Fort Worden and discuss the history of the Point Wilson Lighthouse. The local history elements add a great deal to these stories, making the characters and their adventures seem more realistic.

Once again, Esri Allbritten has given readers a solid mystery with a well-developed cast of characters. But, it's the staff of Tripping Magazine that are the best characters, as they argue and plot their way to the solution of the mystery. Angus tries to find a paranormal connection and Michael tries to debunk all such possibilities. If you enjoy a little local history, a few ghost stories, fun sleuths, and a great deal of humor, you won't go wrong with the latest Chihuahua mystery, The Portrait of Doreene Gray.

Esri Allbritten's website is www.EsriAllbritten.com

The Portrait of Doreene Gray by Esri Allbritten. Minotaur. 2012. ISBN 9780312569167 (hardcover), 288p.

FTC Full Disclosure - The author sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.


Esri Allbritten said...

Of all the people who read my books, I think you "get me" the most. You even got some of the *tone* of the book in your review. I guess that's why you get all those awards. :)


amber polo said...

I loved Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and look forward to more Chihuahua fun.

Lesa said...


That's the nicest thing authors can tell me about a review, that I get them. Thank you so much. Good luck with the book!

Lesa said...


If you loved the first one, you're going to enjoy this one as well. I just love the staff of Tripping Magazine!