Haunted bookshops, haunted portraits and a woman determined to get to the bottom of some shady business! I quite enjoyed this well-plotted cozy mystery.
Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and her gumshoe ghost team up to solve the stunning mystery at the heart of a madwoman’s self-portrait in this all new installment from New York Times bestselling author Cleo Coyle.
While gathering a collection of vintage book cover paintings for a special event in her quaint Rhode Island bookshop, Penelope discovers a spooky portrait of a beautiful woman, one who supposedly went mad, according to town gossip. Seymour, the local mailman, falls in love with the haunting image and buys the picture, refusing to part with it, even as fatal accidents befall those around it. Is the canvas cursed? Or is something more sinister at work?
For answers, Pen turns to an otherworldly source: Jack Shepard, PI. Back in the 1940s, Jack cracked a case of a killer cover artist, and (to Pen’s relief) his spirit is willing to help her solve this mystery, even if he and his license did expire decades ago.
This was my first book in the Haunted Bookshop Mystery series although it’s number seven! The story reads very well as a stand-alone. I had no issues with backstories and was able to follow along with all events.
My Favourite Parts:
- Jack the Ghost: oh my I loved that this series features a ghost from the 1940s. His dialogue is charming and I love how he helps Penny with her case and with her life in general
- The time slips: although we have a present day mystery to solve, Jack takes Penny into his past to revisit another crime that may or may not be related. The olden days scenes are beautifully and richly drawn
- The double mystery: we pretty much get a two in one here. We’re trying to solve the mystery of who murdered Walt, an antiques collector. However, we also get caught up in Jack’s old case and want to know who is behind Ruby’s murder.
- Spencer and Aunt Sadie are absolutely delightful secondary characters. They ooze sweetness.
- The main mystery itself is rather twisty. I loved all the different elements that came out and how each piece relates to the others. I found the pacing for clue dropping/ red herring placements to be very good.
- The Big Reveal is just the right amount of dramatic!
Parts I didn’t like as much:
- Seymour and Brainert: I’m afraid Penny’s best friends are rather annoying. Aunt Sadie complains about them but I thought she was being a spoilsport. Nope. They really are that childish and their sparring dialogues had me skipping lines to get to more interesting parts.
- The details about bookmaking and book covers and the book industry’s history are very detailed. It did pique my interest in some sections. However, I found some instances read more like an info dump and skimmed them quickly.
Overall, however, I enjoyed this story a lot! I really liked the element of ghostly detective, Jack, and how he and Penny connected through dreams. I think the mystery is super well plotted and kept me intrigued and guessing!
I give The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait 4/5 spirited espresso shots.