Charlene Morris needs a change— something different after the death of her husband. Moving from her home in Chicago to a historic house in Salem, Massachusetts that she’s never seen sounds about as different as it gets. But then she didn’t expect to wake up on her first night in the gorgeous house to the ghost of the former owner, Jack Strathmore, standing at the foot of her bed. Now if she ever wants to get her house ghost-free in time to open it as a B&B for the tourist season, she’s going to have to solve Jack’s murder.
Author Traci Wilton has brewed a wicked concept. Charlene wanted a new life, but she never intended to dive into someone else’s, and that’s what makes her such a compelling sleuth. Where others are nosy for the sake of being nosy, she has a legitimate reason for investigating the murder: there’s a ghost in her house and he needs to move on. However, she’s still dealing with the loss of her husband, which often makes her hesitate in trying new things. This mystery allows her to grow, coming out of her grief as she attempts to aid Jack, and Wilton expertly blends the overall mystery against Charlene’s time of personal change.
And this hesitancy works because sometimes Charlene bumbles through the investigation. She’s clunky with her questioning, pointed with accusations, and earnest in her theories— no matter what the evidence suggests. And yet it all clicks. Charlene comes across as sincere, though timid, and as though she’s trying her best.
However, the mystery itself is a bit of a slower burn than an average cozy. There’s a lot of world building, with Charlene slowly integrating into her new Salem community. The majority of the action takes place in the house, sometimes limiting her interactions with other characters. And this makes sense because part of Jack’s background as a ghost means that he’s not allowed to leave his home’s grounds. Wilton combats this with a lot of renovations and running errands, and it’s obvious that future installments will be served by actual B&B guests and more comfortable interactions with locals.
Even so, the paranormal aspects run away with the show. Charlene and Jack’s interactions are fascinating as the two navigate the rules of ghost-dom, and their relationship from reluctant acquaintances to genuine friends binds the story together. It’s a spooky, somewhat heartwarming start to a series.
Title: Mrs. Morris and the Ghost
Series: A Salem B&B Mystery #1
Author: Traci Wilton
Publication Date: July 30, 2019
Classification: Cozy Mystery
Note: I received a free ARC of this book through NetGalley.