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Sunday, October 19, 2008

What's a Ghoul to Do?

**** What's a Ghoul to Do? by Victoria Laurie. Mystery.

M. J. Holliday is a psychic who psychic who can speak to ghosts. She and her best friend Gilley are basically ghostbusters--Gilley handles the business end of things, and M. J. talks to the ghosts and helps them cross over.

They're hired by skeptical doctor Steven Sable, whose grandfather recently died--a suicide, the police say, but Dr. Sable doesn't believe that.

M. J. is reluctant to take the case because he insists on coming along, and M. J. always works alone. But she finally agrees, though she warns him that her priority will be to help his grandfather's ghost move on, rather than pressing for a reason for his death.

The case soon turns out to be more complex--and dangerous--than it first seemed. The ghost turns violent, there's family drama and financial intrigue, and M. J. and Steven end up in physical danger.

During all this, there's a bit of a romance between M. J. and Steven. She resists initially, but his charm wears her down.

Adding to the fun is M. J.'s parrot, Doc, who tends to get M. J. into trouble.

This is a fun and clever mystery. It reminded me somewhat of The Remains of the Dead by Wendy Roberts, in that both sleuths speak to ghosts and try to help them cross over. However, M. J. is comfortable and open with her abilities, while Sadie hides them, and probably as a consequence, M. J.'s abilities are a lot more detailed--such as how M. J. deals with a bad spirit.

I was a little distracted by Steven's linguistic tics--he was from Argentina and educated in Germany, so English is not his first language. He frequently either says the wrong word, prompting M. J. to correct him, or uses "how you say..." Now, I get the point, believe me. My mother-in-law, for example, speaks three languages, and though she's very fluent, and actually worked as a translator for a while, she occasionally forgets words. So I think it's realistic. It's like putting an accent in a book, though--do it sparingly, and the reader gets the idea. If you do it all the time, it gets hard to read, and boring. And that's what happened here. The English errors (and M. J.'s corrections, which added quite a lot to the word count) occurred at least a couple of times a page every time Steven was in the scene. It got old.

I also found the title a bit misleading, though that's not much to do with the story. When the titles of the books in this series all contain the word "ghoul," well, I'm expecting a ghoul. I've never heard of "ghoul" used to describe someone who merely talked to ghosts. Maybe I've just been reading too much fantasy.

All in all, though, it was a good mystery, and I'll be getting the next book in the series.

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I HAVE to read this!
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