reviewed by Gail Byrd
Madame Eleanor was a fake. She would come to your house and eliminate whatever was haunting you, or remove the evil spirits or whatever, for a price. She would insure you didn’t rummage through the things she brought to the house or investigate her midnight wanderings, unless you wanted to see the cameras, noise makers, etc., she would install and manipulate as she needed.
All that changed when the sister, whose medical treatment Eleanor had been paying for with her work as a medium, died and began talking to her for real. As if that wasn’t enough, another medium, one Eleanor also believed to be a fake, died and now she talks to Eleanor, too. Add that to Eleanor’s decision to “go straight,” settling in a small English village and making herbal remedies and you have the current Madame Eleanor. She still wears costumes reminiscent of a witch, lots of black, and she still gets involved in solving murders, but she will be the first one to tell you it’s because she is an astute observer, nothing more.
All of that is threatened when she accompanies her boyfriend’s mother to Brighton beach to get away while their castle (did I mention they are extremely wealthy?) is having the heating and air conditioning upgraded. Almost the moment she walks into the hotel she is greeted by a former partner from her less than above board days, Armand. When she talks to him she becomes convinced Armand is there to fleece her friends and, as an added bonus, fill them in on all her former activities. They know much of Eleanor’s past, but she has kept the more lurid parts from them as she is afraid they would reject her if they knew.
Her brother, Will is also in England on a visit and has accompanied Eleanor on this trip. As she and Will are walking on the beach the first evening they see a man go overboard in rough seas. Troubling as that is, it’s even more troubling when they try to describe the two shadow figures who appear to be throwing him overboard and who disappear into thin air when he goes over the side.
That’s just the beginning of strange happenings at the hotel, and Eleanor is convinced Armand is somehow at the bottom of things. Jewels are stolen from safes, sometimes with the owner in the room. The same report is given in each case, there were two shadow figures in the room who just disappeared when the occupant was awakened by a noise like the crackling of a fire. Eleanor knows Armand, who is an accomplished hypnotist, uses noise as a way of lulling the brain, and she is convinced this is another one of his tricks.
She can’t prove the man who went overboard and drowned was murdered, and the police tend not to take her information seriously. However, when another of their suspects dies in his hotel room, it’s certain there is a murder to solve. Eleanor is determined to solve the case, although the police detective in charge is not interested in her assistance. This determination comes both from having seen the first murder and some strange happenings that keep pulling her into the case. Things like the antique porcelain doll that keeps reappearing in her room, even after Eleanor or Will throw it down the trash bin, toss it in the ocean, and crush it into dust.
Then there are Eleanor’s two cats, Frankie and Beast. Eleanor learned during her last case it wasn’t good for her to travel without these two, so she sneaked them into the hotel. The only problem now is that Beast keeps getting out of her room somehow, and appearing unexpectedly, at least once bringing the doll with him.
This book is both fun and a well-plotted mystery with several twists and turns that will keep the reader on their toes and entertained throughout. There are secondary storylines such as Eleanor’s relationship with her boyfriend, the extent to which she hears from her two spirit companions, and her reasons for giving up the less savory aspects of her life, which have been ongoing from the first book in the series. These are referred to, as are some of her previous work, without explanation. A reader coming to this book as the first one in the series might find references that leave them a bit confused, although they do not affect the outcome of the mystery itself. I would recommend to anyone who enjoys series to begin with the first book in the series and read them in order.
My thanks to Kensington Books for providing me an advanced copy for this review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.