I love a mystery series with characters that seem fresh, and an original premise. J.J. Cook succeeds on both accounts with the first in a new series, That Old Flame of Mine. Set in the small town of Sweet Pepper, Tennessee in the Great Smoky Mountains, the book features two fire chiefs. One is temporary, and one has been dead for forty years.
After Chicago firefighter Stella Griffin hit her cheating boyfriend in the nose, she thought it might be time to take a break. She accepted a temporary job in Sweet Pepper where she would serve as fire chief for three months while training the volunteer fire department. However, the team only had a couple months under their belt when a house caught fire and the owner was found dead in a closet. Most people blamed smoke inhalation, but something felt funny to Stella, and she pushed for an investigation. While she headed up the arson investigation, the local police chief reluctantly looked at the death.
She doesn't have time to investigate before she's knocked for a loop. First, she's knocked off her Harley, and after being rescued, she's stunned to learn about her own connection to Sweet Pepper. And, someone doesn't seem to want her in town, but she won't let a few "accidents" push her away. Stella does find an unexpected ally, one that she's reluctant to accept. Everyone in town knows the cabin where she's living is haunted by the ghost of the old fire chief, Eric Gamlyn. Stella is too grounded to believe in ghosts, but finally she's forced to give in, and accept that he does exist, and he can help. But, how much help can a ghost be when he can only haunt the cabin and the fire station?
Combine a volunteer fire team, two fire chiefs, one of whom is a ghost, family secrets, and murders and fires that haunt the town, and you have a fascinating, successful mystery. It's hard to go wrong with an intriguing mystery involving a ghost, a strong female character in a role normally reserved for men, and a spark of romance. J.J. Cook is kindling a sizzling good mystery series, beginning with That Old Flame of Mine.
J.J. Cook's website is www.jjcook.net
That Old Flame of Mine by J.J. Cook. Berkley Prime Crime. 2013. ISBN 9780425252048 (paperback), 297p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.