This book was provided to me by the author for review consideration.
Guilt is a Ghost by Tim Prasil
In 1899, a séance was held at the Morley Mansion in Boston, Massachusetts. The millionaire Roderick Morley was desperate to contact his murdered friend. He hoped to clear himself of suspicion by identifying the true killer. The séance went horribly wrong, though, and Morley left the room—to commit suicide. By 1903, the Morley Mansion was deemed haunted! The new owner hired Vera Van Slyke, an odd but brilliant ghost hunter. With her assistant, Lucille Parsell, Vera quickly realized that, to banish the ghost, the two would have to solve the murder. But a fugitive murderer wasn’t the only shadow cast over the Morley Mansion. A fake medium had performed at that séance, a shame-ridden woman who called herself: “Lucille Parsell.” And, sometimes, guilt is a ghost that can never be banished. (via Goodreads)
Why was I interested in this book?
I read Tim Prasil’s Help for the Haunted previously and enjoyed it. Help is a collection of connected mysteries. Set in the late 1800s and early 1900s, our detectives are ghost hunter Vera Van Slyke and reformed fraudulent medium Lucille Parsell. If you can’t see just how much this is a “book Katherine would read,” you haven’t been around my blog too long.
As with Help for the Haunted, there are, in fact, ghosts in Guilt is a Ghost, and there are two things that I particularly like about how ghosts are treated in these stories.
First, ghosts are naturalistic phenomena. There are rules and some scientific theories surrounding them that is in line with the era. One of those rules is that guilt rips holes in the existential fabric between the living and the souls of the dead. Ghost are the bleed-through. This places the cause of ghost more on the living, which is an intriguing idea.
Also, the solution to the mystery isn’t provided by the ghosts. Too often I’ve read supernatural mysteries in which a ghost is given omnipotence and can provide answers when the human protagonists hit a wall. That is such a cop-out, but not one engaged in here.
The mystery in Guilt is a Ghost is complex enough that it warranted a novel length story. There a few non-action scenes with characters discussing matters, but I like spending time with Vera and Lucille. Their conversations are never a hardship. Vera is a lunch-and-beer-loving character after my own heart.
What Didn’t Work
Minor quibble: Timeline-wise, the stories from Help for the Haunted fall in the midst of Guilt is a Ghost. Guilt starts out with the circumstances that lead Vera and Lucille to meet, but the majority of the story takes place after the events of Help.* The transition is a tiny bit clunky. Reading Help for the Haunted isn’t necessary before Guilt is a Ghost, but it isn’t a bad idea either.
* Actually, I was reminded that the chronology of stories isn’t quite that clean cut. In fact, one of my favorites from Help occurs right after Guilt! But don’t let this scare you. If you need it, Tim Prasil has a “cheat sheet” for you.
Ghosts, female detectives, early 20th century. The only thing I’m sad about is that I don’t have more Vera Van Slyke mysteries for the coming autumn reading season!
Original Publishing info: Brom Bones Books, 2019
My Copy: trade paperback