Paige Shelton's ghost stories set in Broken Rope, Missouri continue to enchant me. Broken Rope is where the Old West and a contemporary tourist town intersect, where the ghosts of the past search for answers to their murders. And, it's where Betts Winston and her Gram, with a little help from a cowboy ghost, Jerome, and a local historian, help those ghosts move on. Add in a contemporary murder, and it's a recipe for an intricately plotted mystery. If Onions Could Spring Leeks is the latest in this engaging series.
It's a good thing the country cooking school run by Gram and Betts is on break because Gram's having nightmares that interrupt her sleep, and Betts is waking to trains and train stations where nothing exists today. Betts, who is learning to accept the ghosts of Broken Rope's past, follows the sounds to the train station, knowing she'll find "at least one specter searching for attention from someone still alive". It's there she meets Grace, an African-American woman from 1888, who came to the train station to meet a white man and run away with him. Although interracial marriage was illegal, they were meeting up to head north together. In 1888, Grace was murdered, and Robert waited the rest of his life for her. But, Betts knows Grace will never rest unless her story has a satisfying ending, the discovery of her killer.
Gram is having violent dreams that are linked to Grace while Betts is trying to find answers, researching the past with the help of her historian best friend, Jake. Then, Broken Rope's current story adds a new element, the murder of a local man who had a few more wives than Betts ever imagined. Although those ex-wives urge her to leave them alone, Betts' curiosity is aroused. Why would all of those women marry that unattractive man with a terrible mother?
Shelton always presents Betts with two mysteries, a contemporary one and a ghost story from the past. And, despite the danger she encounters, and warnings from Jerome, Betts is drawn to the ghosts and the murder investigations. As she tells her brother, "They all can use a little help to answer a question or solve a mystery or something from their lives. I can't seem to resist helping."
That's a satisfying answer for any amateur sleuth; "I can't seem to resist helping." Shelton's lead characters, Betts, Gram, Jeremy, and Jake, sympathize with the ghosts. And, they care about murder victims, whether they died a century ago or a week ago. If Onions Could Spring Leeks, with its dramatic murder and issues from the past, is an engaging mystery, with a strong, appealing heroine. Is it okay to say I hope there are a number of other unsolved murders with ghosts making their way to Broken Rope? They can be assured of a welcome, and assistance from an able team of sleuths, and a welcome from readers who appreciate the mystery and history of Broken Rope, Missouri.
Paige Shelton's website is www.paigeshelton.com
If Onions Could Spring Leeks by Paige Shelton. Berkley Prime Crime. 2015. ISBN 9780425269299 (paperback), 293p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The publisher sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.