Sunday, October 02, 2016

Psychic Mystery in Maine, from Jessica Estevao, WHISPERS BEYOND THE VEIL

Berkeley Prime Crime, a Penguin Random House imprint, brought out the first "Change of Fortune" mystery from Jessica Estevao -- aka Jessie Crockett -- a couple of weeks ago. Set in Maine, WHISPERS BEYOND THE VEIL takes carnival con's daughter Ruby Proulx out of her Canadian father's circle and into the family she's never known: Her mother's sister Honoria owns a very specialized hotel on the coast of Maine, and to Ruby's surprise, she's warmly welcomed back to this embrace she's never known.

Estavao's first in the series isn't Crocker's first, and the hand of an experienced author means this series arrives tight, well plotted, and cleverly paced from the get-go. A traditional mystery in the Agatha Christie vein, with plenty of suspicious characters and motives, the 1898 story is spiced with psychic and criminal possibilities. Aunt Honoria's unusual resort is the Hotel Belden and it caters specifically to those seeking wisdom from beyond -- that is, to Spiritualists (quite fashionable at the time!). Ruby's arrival turns out to be a blessing in every way, as she steps up to help her aunt with the resort's opening week.

When the expected staff member who's a medium doesn't turn up -- and many of the guests have booked especially to meet with a medium! -- Ruby and her inner "voice" offer to fill the gap. At first Ruby expects to con the clients, the way her father did in the snake-oil sales that supported the two of them while Ruby grew up. She can "read" a person adeptly, especially with the aid of her pack of Tarot cards (which in themselves turn out to be significant). But the "voice" has better plans for Ruby than that. As she wrestles with a refreshed sense of honor and integrity, she also must sort out the deadly peril accumulating at the hotel, protect herself from exposure as a fraud, and figure out whether, in fact, she has a "gift" or a terrible curse over her life.

I enjoyed every page, and can't wait for the next in the series from this adept New England author, who blogs at the Wicked Cozy Authors site.

Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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