After her husband's death, Pen and her son moved to Quindicott, Rhode Island, where she took over her aunt Sadie's bookshop. She also found a ghost in the bookshop, the ghost of a private detective who had been killed there in 1949. As an avid fan of crime fiction, Pen is fascinated by the stories Jack tells, accounts of his cases in the 1940s. Some of those cases resemble current cases that Pen encounters.
The hottest selling book in Buy the Book is Jessica Swindell's Shades of Leather. When a woman runs out of the store, after claiming it was her picture on the back of the book, taking the book with her, it arouses Pen's curiosity. Who was the woman? And, who is the author behind Jessica Swindell's name? As customers and people involved with that book die, Pen and Jack join forces to investigate the true story behind the novel. How does this relate to Jack's case from 1947 involving a missing dog and a missing author?
For those who read the earlier books in the series, that's enough information. If you haven't read these mysteries, you're missing fast-paced mysteries that successfully combine a cold case, a contemporary one, a ghost, a private investigator, and a bookseller. There's also sexual tension in the books. These mysteries are forerunners of so many books that came after, such as J.J. Cook's Sweet Pepper Brigade mysteries.
In 2014, when I reviewed one of J.J. Cook's books, Playing with Fire, I mentioned the Haunted Bookshop mysteries. It's worth repeating part of that review.
"I have a theory about women and ghosts. It's safe to have a female amateur sleuth fall for the ghost of a good-looking man. Readers can fall for him, too, but the author doesn't have to worry about the reader getting frustrated when the couple doesn't get together. I can think of some long-running mystery series that I've given up on reading because the woman can't make up her mind who she really loves. That isn't a problem in a series with a ghost. The heroine knows who she really loves. She just can't have him. It's an important element in a number of cozy mysteries featuring ghosts. In fact, that issue is central to some of my favorite series. Alice Kimberly's Haunted Bookshop series features a bookstore owner and the ghost of a private detective that haunted the bookshop where he died. Sharon Pape's Portrait of Crime series brings together a police sketch artist turned private investigator and the ghost of a Federal Marshal. In Paige Shelton's Country Cooking School mysteries, Betts Winston is haunted by the memory of Jerome Cowbender. J.J. Cook's outstanding Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade mysteries are in the same vein. Perhaps the latest one, Playing with Fire, reminds me the most of Alice Kimberly's books because we can see the story from both Fire Chief Stella Griffin's point of view, and, once in a while when he's thinking of her, the late fire chief's point of view. Former Fire Chief Eric Gamlyn is a ghost, and the man who built the cabin where Stella now lives. Everyone in town knows his ghost haunts the cabin, but only Stella can see and talk to him.
In this series, only Pen can see and talk with Jack. They've even discovered a way for him to leave the bookstore, with a token from Jack's past. It's another element that was also used in J.J. Cook's series.
I credit Cleo Coyle. The author credits "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir" as you can see in yesterday's blog interview. No matter who came up with the ghost and a widow, it's a successful device for a mystery series. And, thank heavens this one is back.
A note from the authors - FYI - Our main website is www.CoffeehouseMystery.com and for those interested in going straight to our Haunted Bookshop Mystery page, we have a dedicated web address at www.HauntedBookshopMystery.com
The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller by Cleo Coyle. Berkley Prime Crime, 2018. ISBN 9780425237458 (paperback), 320p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The authors sent me a copy of the book, hoping I would review it.