Author: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Series: The Chesterton Holte Mysteries (Book 5)
Publication: Smoke & Shadow Books (December 31, 2015)
Description: Spring 1924. The world has clawed its way back from the ravages of WWI and the Spanish Flu pandemic. The 20's are beginning to roar.
Poppy Thornton lives with her Aunt Jo and her excitable cat Maestro in upper-crust Philadelphia. Poppy is determined to make a name for herself as a serious crime reporter, but is stuck reporting on garden parties and ladies' fashion. Then one day her editor assigns her to collect background information on the suicide of a prominent businessman. She soon discovers it was actually a murder... but her surprising source for this information is the ghost of a man killed alongside her father during the Great War. Even if she dared tell anyone, who would believe it?
Together Poppy and her "gentleman haunt" follow the trail of a string of murders. But as their investigation narrows in on an all-too-familiar suspect, Poppy becomes a target herself and wonders if her ghost of a partner will appear in time to keep her from joining him in the after-life.
My Thoughts: I enjoyed the time period and setting of this historical mystery. Poppy Thornton is determined to make it as a crime reporter. However, as an independently wealthy young woman in Philadelphia, she has to deal with both family disapproval and prejudices at work. She lives with her aunt who doesn't understand why she isn't looking for a husband and looking to live the life as a society lady.
When her editor finally gives her a chance, it is to investigate the likely suicide of one of her cousin Eustace's friends. Montcrief supposedly hung himself from an antique chandelier in his own dining room. The coroner has discovered that he was poisoned before his death which makes suicide unlikely. It isn't long before there are more deaths.
Poppy is assisted in her investigation by Chesterton Holte. Holte was a spy during the Great War who was present when Poppy's father was executed as a spy. Holte, the actual spy, was killed a little bit later. He has returned as a ghost to haunt Poppy to make up for his part in her father's death. Despite being a practical, college-educated young woman, it really doesn't take Poppy long to believe that Holte is real. And, while he can spy out various information for her, she is the only one who can see and hear him. He also has the disadvantage of not being able to interact with the physical world beyond making the lights flicker and phone lines crackle.
This story was a great introduction to the characters and the setting. It was easy to see the advantages and disadvantages of Poppy's situation as a young woman who wants to do something real at a time when most women of her class are content to be sheltered. Her contrast with her best friend who is happily married and the mother of twins is quite noticeable.
I liked the investigation that Poppy did which gave a look into the lifestyles of the social elite. I liked her budding relationship with Inspector Loring who is the police officer in charge of the murder case.
However, this isn't a finished story. It is a great build-up to a mystery but, at the end, we don't know who the murderer is or why the murders happened. Since the publication information indicates that this is the first Chesterton Holte mystery, we can hope that the second WHICH ACTUALLY SOLVES THE CRIME isn't too long delayed!
"But don't you see?" Mildred persisted. "This way—with a husband—you can have the best of both worlds? You can vote and run for office and all the rest of it, but you don't have to be on your own. You're protected."I got this eARC for review from NetGalley. You can buy your copy here.
"Protected means immature, incompetent, incapable," said Poppy. "We protect children, not adults."