Dead and Breakfast by Kate Kingsbury (cozy mystery novel, 2017).
For once, I pick up the FIRST in a new series of mystery novels! Kingsbury, of course, is a veteran and highly successful writer with a bunch of popular series to her credit. But this one is the initial offering set in the Merry Ghost Inn. Or to be exact, what will be the Merry Ghost Inn–starting next time.
Melanie West, still recovering from a nasty divorce from Portland’s most annoying lawyer, has let her grandmother–the spritely, English-born Liza Harris–talk her into buying an old, haunted house and transforming it into a bed & breakfast. This is in a touristy town on the coast of Oregon. The place needs renovations and in the process Melanie and Liza stumble upon a secret room (hidden behind some of the place’s abundant tacky wallpaper. And inside is a skeletal corpse.
The much discussed ghost (which Melanie stubbornly doesn’t believe in, even after hearing its frequent laughter)? Well, no. Our ghost, who’ll prove indirectly helpful in solving the resulting mystery, sounds male. The corpse in the little room is female, complete with nightgown. It’s soon identified as the long-missing wife of a former owner–a man who was surely too handicapped to murder her, much less drag her into the secret room and wall her up, let alone get rid of the “blunt object” used to bash her skull in.
This being a cold case, the small local police force has more pressing matters to attend to and the new owners have a looming deadline to open their B&B–which can’t happen with the bedroom adjoining the secret room, not to mention the entire 2nd floor, cordoned off until the unsolved mystery from almost ten years back gets solved. Plus spunky Liza, in addition to be firm believer in chuckling ghosts, is a great mystery novel fan. She insists they investigate and talks a reluctant Melanie into it.
There’s a very decent amount of humor herein. The women are a fun pair. There’s a good assortment of supporting characters–numerous potential suspects, small town secrets and jealousies, a ghost at once helpful and full of mischief, plus hints of potential romances for both amateur detectives. The latter will surely be developed as the series unwinds. Oh, and another (recent, related) murder leads Melanie to adopt a dog who was injured trying to defend his owner–quickly becoming another charming member of the family.
I had my eye on one suspect in particular, but was proved wrong. The killer finally makes a threatening and damaging appearance, just as Melanie puts the pieces together. This results in a violent showdown, a close call in which the killer is finally captured and the house gets damaged, forcing postponement of the Grand Opening. But hey, insurance will now pay for the renovations–so the owners, the Merry Ghost and his namesake Inn will indeed be hosting guests (and other mysteries) in the fullness of time. Oh, and in what has become a mini-tradition in such books, this one offers one of the Inn’s fancy breakfast recipes–which sounded so good, yours truly jotted it down to try some day!
Nice opening to a pleasant, supernaturally-tinted mystery series–and its already available in pretty much every format the potential reader might want.