I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
London, 1925. Gloria Sutter made her fortune helping the bereaved contact loved ones killed during the Great War. Now she’s been murdered at one of her own séances, after leaving a message requesting the help of her former friend and sole rival, Ellie Winter.
Ellie doesn’t contact the dead anymore. She specializes in finding lost items. Still, she can’t refuse the final request of the only other true psychic she has known. Now Ellie must delve into Gloria’s secrets... Worse, she cannot shake the attentions of handsome James Hawley, a damaged war veteran who has dedicated himself to debunking psychics.
The Other Side of Midnight is quite unlike St. James' first two books (The Haunting of Maddie Claire and An Inquiry Into Love and Death). The same elements are all still there, but re-arranged. This is a much more traditionally structured murder mystery, with ghosts but no hauntings, and a slow burn romance. St. James remains within the genre, but proves she can write a very compelling story without falling back on cookie-cutter story structures.
St. James' male characters always include WWI veterans. They are not glamorised or glorified, but all are working to manage their new realities. Sometimes they are beautiful; sometimes interesting looking, but they are all broken or damaged or scarred in some way or another. That you are in post-war England in the 20's is inescapable.
Ellie was odd at first; early on, the author pulls out some foreshadowing that made me think Ellie was going to be a whingin' engine, something that wasn't going to endear me to the character or the book. Thankfully, no whinging came to pass. I'm not sure I have any idea of Ellie as a character, but I don't think she had much idea of who she was either, even by the end, so maybe that was the point. The building romance between her and James though, that was excellent. The author gave the feels without giving a show; not many can do that and make it work.
As I mentioned earlier; no hauntings, but lots of ghosts. And they're disturbing. Ellie describes seeing them as:
"'Like plunging your hands into a bucket of worms in the dark,' I said. 'Except it's inside your mind. It's repellent, and cold, and you don't know what you're touching because you can't see–you don't know what it looks like, and you don't want to know.'"
So, still a high creep factor, but I could read this sitting alone at night in an empty house with a minimum of nervous paranoia.
The mystery, which is at the forefront of this book, is really well plotted. A tiny bit out-there, but comparatively feasible given the backdrop. I never had a clue about who the murderer was. I knocked off the last half-star because part of the plot was too tidy: timing of events, leaps of intuition that were just too lucky - or unlucky. The fuel for this train of events relied too heavily on coincidence, but the story was strong enough to compensate for most of it.
I remain a firm fan of Simone St. James' work. So far, she's 3 for 3 and I'm really looking forward to the remaining two I have in the stacks.