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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Home for the Haunting (Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #4)

Home For the Haunting - Juliet Blackwell

After knuckling down and getting through several "meh" cozies in my pile, weeding out the series that needed to go, I decided it was time to read a cozy from The Pile that I knew would be a winner.

 

Juliet Blackwell is one of those authors:  I really enjoy everything she writes.  I first discovered her as Hailey Lind, co-authoring with her sister a cozy series centered on a reformed art forger.  That series was both frustrating and engrossing at once.  It ended much too soon, but was replaced by Ms. Blackwell's Witchcraft series and her Haunted Home Renovation series.  Both excellent entertainment.

 

Home for the Haunting is the fourth in the series and, in my opinion, each book is better, and sometimes a bit scarier, than the last.  These are old fashioned ghost stories, pure and simple.  Mel is a historic renovation contractor, bringing back old homes to their former glory.  A perfect setting for ghosts!  This time it's the house next door to her rehab job that's haunted; the scene of a double-murder/suicide decades earlier.

 

I like Mel; she's a little bit odd - especially her wardrobe choices - but likeable in much the same way one finds an old curmudgeon endearing.  She has a nice family and a good couple of friends that make up her inner circle.  There are no clichéd caricatures of nemesis here.  Graham is the love interest, but this is a back burner, low flame romance.  Glaciers move faster and the reader would probably see more action out of them, but I don't say that as a criticism.  He's around often enough that he isn't the author's afterthought or begrudging addition, it's just that the romance is more a soft hum that runs through the background.

 

I like the plot a lot.  The old houses and the nature of Mel's work lend themselves to old stories/cold cases that somehow feel more interesting and less horrifying than if they happened in the present. The cold case nature allows for a "what if?" that hooks me.  There's also a current-day dead body, but really, the old tragedy is the focus.  I don't know if I was just too busy enjoying the ghost story to guess the murderer, or if the author was crafty with the clues; either way, I didn't identify the killer until Mel did.  I thought the ending was done well too; another author avoiding the TSTL moments in favour of the MC doing the sane and rational thing, while still giving the reader a fraught ending with a bit of twisted justice.

 

If you like your murders cozy and enjoy ghost stories you can read in bed at night without having to sleep with the lights on, I can recommend giving this series a try.  The first book is probably the weakest, but still enjoyable, and any of these books can be read out of order for those that aren't sticklers.  I can't wait for #5.