Haunting Investigation – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro [Review] (supernatural, historical mystery)

Haunting Investigation – Chelsea Quinn Yarbro [Review] (supernatural, historical mystery)Author: Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Title: Haunting Investigation
Series: Chesterton Holte #1
Publisher: Smoke and Shadow
Pages: 352
Release Date: December 31, 2015
Genres: Mystery & Thriller
Blurb

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.
Format: Paperback
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four-stars

*I received a free copy of this book from a book promoter in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.*

HAUNTING INVESTIGATION is the first book in the Chesterton Holte series.

This was my first time reading a book by Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, although I certainly had heard of her. I was impressed by the characterization and setting details, but disappointed by the lack of plot resolution.

About the story

Poppy Thornton is a twenty-five year old woman who is trying to make a name for herself as a reporter like her deceased father. She is tired of covering the society page; she wants to report on crime. When a friend of her cousin dies, Poppy is assigned the case, in part because of a lack of available staff at the paper and in part because of her connections to the social circle in which the victim ran. Poppy jumps at the chance to prove herself as a reporter.

A ghost introduces himself as Chesterton Holte, a spy during the war who was responsible for her father’s death (eight years earlier). He says he has to make things right by helping her. Holte sees that she is in over her head with the investigation and offers to help her by gaining information from people in the ghost realm.

About the characters

All of the characters were distinct from one another and interesting. I particularly liked the contrast between Poppy’s brother and her cousin. The former was uptight and pompous, while the latter was a rule-breaker and joked around. There was also a strong contrast between Poppy’s friend from school and Poppy. Poppy had no interest in becoming a “brood-mare” like her friend who was married and popping out babies.

Poppy encountered a lot of prejudice. I liked that she was part of a disadvantaged group as a woman who wanted to work, but also part of a privileged group as a member of the upper class. It was interesting how both statuses caused her to encounter prejudice and stereotypes. Poppy was determined to be different.

About the setting

Haunting Investigations was set in the 1920s, Philadelphia. Yarbro included many details about the time period, which made the book believable. I did wonder, though, many times throughout the book whether the dialogue was consistent for this time period (ex: yummy, phone instead of telephone, thanks instead of thank you). Given that I know very little about the 1920s, I couldn’t say if this was accurate or not.

The interiors of locations were described clearly, giving the reader a clear picture of how people lived. I would have liked if I had gotten a glimpse of the city earlier in the story. It isn’t until the middle of the book that the author describes anything about the city. I believe my appreciation of the historical context would have been increased if the author had offered some exterior details earlier on.

About the writing and the mystery

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is an excellent writer. Other than some abrupt point of view changes, the writing was smooth and easy to read.

At times it dragged with dialogue that didn’t seem to contribute to the plot. Other times, the details seemed cumbersome. I just wanted something to happen. Also, a few warnings about Poppy being in danger were not enough to keep me concerned about her well-being.

My main complaint is that the mystery is not solved in this book. I really didn’t like the lack of resolution. All of the characters involved in the illegal activities were on the run or dead. No justice was served, which was disappointing.

My overall opinion of HAUNTING INVESTIGATION

If you like non-conventional female leads in historical fiction, you will enjoy reading about Poppy in Haunting Investigation. The supernatural element is also well-defined and interesting.

Despite the lack of plot resolution, slow sections, and some problems with point of view, I enjoyed reading Haunting Investigation. The best aspect of the book was the character development.

I give Haunting Investigation four stars (a B). I recommend reading it, as long as you are prepared to have to read the next book to find out what happens and whodunit.

 

 

 

About Chelsea Quinn Yarbro

A professional writer for more than forty years, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has sold over eighty books, more than seventy works of short fiction, and more than three dozen essays, introductions, and reviews. She also composes serious music. Her first professional writing – in 1961-1962 – was as a playwright for a now long-defunct children’s theater company. By the mid-60s she had switched to writing stories and hasn’t stopped yet.

After leaving college in 1963 and until she became a full-time writer in 1970, she worked as a demographic cartographer, and still often drafts maps for her books, and occasionally for the books of other writers.

She has a large reference library with books on a wide range of subjects, everything from food and fashion to weapons and trade routes to religion and law. She is constantly adding to it as part of her on-going fascination with history and culture; she reads incessantly, searching for interesting people and places that might provide fodder for stories.


Photo Credit: Charles Lucke

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