Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Book Review: The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary by Sue Ann Jaffarian (Ghost of Granny Apples #5.5)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Great characters in a more serious Christmas mystery
Cons: Not a ghost of a con
The Bottom Line:
Christmas ghost story
Serious tones, lighter ghost
Combine for great read

Ghostly Christmas Mystery

Outside of Dickens’s classic A Christmas Carol, ghosts are not something I normally associate with Christmas.  Still, I didn’t hesitate to read The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary since I do love The Ghost of Granny Apples mysteries so much.  This is a bit of a darker entry for the series, but the result is absolutely wonderful.

As with the two earlier e-novellas author Sue Ann Jaffarian has done for this series, she is pairing a supporting character from the books with Granny, the ghost of a pioneer woman, as the factor tying these novellas to the main series.  Our main character here is Jeremiah Jones, the PI and former cop first introduced in The Ghost in the Guacamole.

It’s a Sunday at the beginning of December when Jeremiah is asked to come down to skid row in Los Angeles.  Jeremiah is good friends with Red Watkins, who runs a mission targeted at vets.  He’s even volunteered his time with The City of Angels Veterans Outreach in the past.  That’s why Red turns to him when a homeless vet nicknamed Bucket starts to act funny.  Bucket has started talking about Mistletoe Mary being murdered to anyone who will listen.  Mary is a familiar fixture on skid row since she has made a living as a prostitute down there for years.  No one has seen her for a couple of weeks, but since she’d been talking about going to live with her daughter, no one has been that concerned.

Jeremiah is able to see ghosts, a fact he has hidden from almost everyone who knows him.  He is fairly certain that something has happened to Mistletoe Mary, and she is haunting Bucket.  But can he find Mary’s ghost and then prove what really happened to her without giving away his secret?

Skid row?  A prostitute?  Los Angeles?  No, this is not your typical cozy Christmas mystery filled with snow and carols even if there is a murder involved.  In fact, this might be headed a bit toward the soft boiled end of the cozy spectrum.  However, while the story never tries to hide who these characters are, it doesn’t go into detail or get too graphic.  The result is a stark reminder about how people are forced to live by circumstances or horrible choices and it’s a good reminder every so often, but especially during the holidays.

Of course, to keep things from getting too dark, we have Granny.  She appears with her usual jokes to help lighten things up, and she does a great job of that.  I liked Jeremiah when he appeared in the last novel, and I enjoyed getting to know him much better in this story.  Emma and Phil do make a cameo appearance or two, but this is really his story.  That means most of the supporting cast and suspects are also brand new characters, and they are well-developed as well.

Being a novella, there is really no room for anything that doesn’t advance the story, and Sue Ann knows it.  Things never slow down, and we still get some interesting twists I wasn’t expecting before we reach the end.

And that last chapter?  I was reading it in the middle of a bookstore while waiting at a book signing.  And I was trying not to start crying as I read it since I was out in public.  It’s beautiful, and is guaranteed to give you that dose of holiday spirit you’d expect from a book set during December.

As I mentioned, this is an e-novella, so if you are like me and prefer to read a paper copy, you’ll have to make an exception in this case.  There are apps available for smart phones and computers so you don’t have to buy an e-reader to read the story.  That’s what I used, in fact.

For fans of Granny, it is well worth reading The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary.  It might not be your typical Christmas cozy, but the story is enjoyable and will stick with you after you’ve read it.

NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.

If you want to read more of Granny's adventures, here are the Ghost of Granny Apples Mysteries.

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