Emperor Norton's Ghost (Fremont Jones Series #4)

Emperor Norton's Ghost (Fremont Jones Series #4)

4.5 2
by Dianne Day

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Caroline Fremont Jones revels in her return to San Francisco, where a new city rises from the ruins of the 1906 earthquake. Even more rewarding is her business partnership and rekindled love with ex-spymaster Michael Archer Kossoff. But their private investigation agency is barely off the ground when Fremont's new friend, lovely but quirky Frances McFadden, becomes…  See more details below


Caroline Fremont Jones revels in her return to San Francisco, where a new city rises from the ruins of the 1906 earthquake. Even more rewarding is her business partnership and rekindled love with ex-spymaster Michael Archer Kossoff. But their private investigation agency is barely off the ground when Fremont's new friend, lovely but quirky Frances McFadden, becomes their first client--and it's a most troubling case.

The adventurous but skeptical Fremont, lured by Frances to a séance, sees her companion fall into a disturbing trance. Despite the opposition of her powerful, controlling husband, Frances is determined to develop her budding psychic ability. Soon she confides to Fremont that a restless spirit from San Francisco's legendary past has entrusted her with a mission.

But when one of the city's female mediums is murdered, and then another, Fremont's reservations turn to dread. Who has killed these women who wield their own power in the metaphysical world, and why? As Fremont's investigation takes her into the murky depths of spiritualism, she places not only herself, but also her dearest friends in mortal danger.

From the Paperback edition.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The beguiling characters populating the fourth Fremont Jones mystery, following The Bohemian Murders (1997), are such fun that one can forgive the less than captivating plot. A strong-willed and beautiful young woman intent on following her own star, Fremont sustains a stormy relationship with a handsome, sophisticated ex-spy of Russian extraction, Michael Kossoff, aka Michael Archer. In 1908, in a post-earthquake San Francisco that is rapidly rebuilding with energy and style, Jones and Kossoff have formed the J&K Agency, with Fremont as a detective-in-training and ex-cop Wish Stephenson as an operative. Through a young married friend, Fremont involves herself and the agency in the murder case of two well-known spiritualists. Day's appealing portrait of a spirited, irrepressible heroine battling the strictures of a more straitlaced time works well whether Fremont is donning men's duds to infiltrate several exclusive men's clubs or fighting the casual acceptance of wife abuse. The interplay between the two principals and Day's superior handling of period detail and supporting characters contribute to this series' strong appeal. (Aug.)
Kirkus Reviews
Emperor Norton's Ghost ( Aug. 18; 320 pp.; 0-385-48608-1): Enterprising fin-de-siŠcle typist Fremont Jones's new partnership with her mysteriously remote romantic partner Michael Archer (The Bohemian Murders, 1997, etc.)'it's a detective agency, of course'gets off the ground with a bang when Fremont's friend Frances McFadden gets involved with spirits who won't stay dead, mediums who won't stay alive, and a husband who won't stand for Frances's improper behavior.

From the Publisher
"With her independent spirit and youthful determination, Miss Jones is virtually invincible."
The New York Times Book Review

"Appealing...a spirited, irrepressible heroine."
Publishers Weekly

"Jones is instantly captivating, a spunky young woman who wants to make her own way and is more than capable of doing so....Engaging."
Winston-Salem Journal

"It's Day's light and romantic touch with her spunky heroine and the men in her life that makes this series sparkle."

Don't miss Fremont's bestselling adventures:

The Strange Files of Fremont Jones
Macavity Award Winner for Best First Mystery Novel

"One of the most refreshing heroines to appear in years...Day rates top marks for her crisp, witty dialogue;...cleverly conceived plot; and darkly menacing touches."

"An impressive performance."
Chicago Tribune

Fire and Fog

"The strong-willed, intelligent Jones shines, whether she's helping her friend, fending off suitors or fleeing the clutches of ninja smugglers."
Publishers Weekly

"This delightful mystery begins with a bang...and things get more and more complicated from there."
San Francisco Chronicle

The Bohemian Murders

"A special treat. Highly recommended."
Chicago Tribune

San Francisco Chronicle

And coming soon in hardcover from Doubleday:

Death Train to Boston

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Fremont Jones Series , #4
Sold by:
Random House
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File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

Not Toby, I thought, that's no little kid--though precisely why I had that thought, I did not know. A moment later I was proved right.

Mrs. Locke groaned. A sheen of perspiration covered her face, now wreathed about with pain. Frances rocked harder; her hand trembled in mine and I gripped it more tightly.

"Speak to us!" Patrick commanded, "Tell us your name."

The medium started to laugh, but this laughter had no merriment in it. Her clear, high voice had gone all low and harsh. And over to my left a small, hesitant female voice said, "Why, he laughs just like my papa!"

I would not have liked to have someone who sounded like that for my father!

The hesitant voice acquired more vigor. "Papa," she said, "we didn't come to talk to you, we came to talk to Mother. To make sure she's all right, and to see if she had something to say to us, since she died all sudden-like."

Somehow I got the feeling this was not how séances were supposed to go. Patrick apparently agreed with me, for he said, "Leave us, Laughing Spirit! You are not wanted here. Mrs. Locke wishes to speak to her control, the boy named Toby." In an aside to the woman I still could not see beyond the man next to me, Patrick added, "Don't worry. Toby will come through and take control. He died when he was just a boy, you see, but he's a good, strong soul and he's devoted to our Mrs. Locke."

I did not find Patrick's words particularly reassuring. The older I grow, the more experience has caused me to question the commonly held belief that good in the end triumphs over bad, or evil. I watched the medium--she was having a time of it, as if to provemy point. No more of that harsh laughter came from her throat, but she had begun to growl. Yes, growl, and snarl, like a dog. Her mouth simply hung open and the sounds poured out of it. The extreme oddity of this gave me the shivers. Her eyes were open too, fixed on nothing. Her head slumped in an unnatural posture against one shoulder, as if her neck had been broken, and a shudder passed through me as I remembered that awful pop.

I closed my eyes, concentrating, willing the boy ghost Toby to come through. But it was no use; Frances distracted me with her rocking and, besides, the medium began to bark! A fierce, raucous barking that might have been funny but wasn't. My eyes flew open. The barks apparently had jerked Mrs. Locke out of her slump; at least her neck wasn't broken. But now she was being tossed about like a rag doll, held in her place at the table only by her hands still linked to Frances and one of the terrified middle-aged women. This was most bizarre!

Madame Blob wheezed uncontrollably--I was becoming alarmed for her. The middle-aged sisters gawked at the medium's antics less with terror now than consternation, and Patrick called out: "Break the circle! Drop hands immediately! Our dear Mrs. Locke is in trouble!"

There was a good deal of gasping, plus a terminal-sounding wheeze from Madame Blob, while hands were dropped all around the table like hot potatoes. The medium continued to bark, sporadically now, and with less ferocity. But Frances would not let go my hand, nor Mrs. Locke's. Frances still was rocking, and I whipped my head around to regard her in alarm.

Her eyes were screwed shut, and the strain I felt in her iron grip was written on her features. Above the lace of her collar, the cords of her neck stood out. Her lips were drawn back from her teeth in a grimace, and her chin thrust forward. Suddenly, on the forward apex of her rock, she went rigid.

I thought: She is in trance!

The candle flame trembled and came dangerously close to extinguishing itself--although there was not a breath, not a whisper of moving air in the room.

The medium let loose another flurry of barks.

Patrick came hurrying around the table to plant himself between the medium and Frances, urging sotto voce, "Let go! Something has gone terribly wrong, you must let go!" He attempted to pry my friend's fingers from Mrs. Locke's hand, and I did not know what to do. I worried that somehow his interference might injure them in some way, as they now seemed both to be in the same unnatural state, but what did I know of these things? The very air was charged, and my skin all over little prickles. I hadn't the slightest idea what was going on.

As I fretted over what to do, Frances opened both her eyes and her mouth, and a deep, rough voice, not at all like her own, came from her throat: "Lazarus, come away from there!"

This caused more gasping all around. The medium whined once and fell back in her chair, Frances fell forward onto the table, all of a sudden limp as a wet noodle, and I had my hand back. So, one assumed, must Mrs. Locke.

Sounding the paragon of reason, at least to my own ears, I remarked, "We need more light to help us ascertain what has happened here."

"A moment, a moment." Patrick hovered over Mrs. Locke, but I could not see what he was doing because his back was to me. As no one else volunteered to light the wall sconces, we still had no illumination but the one candle. I did not want to leave my friend's side. With Patrick so solicitous of his own friend, employer, mistress--perhaps she was to him all three--I turned my attention to Frances as best I could in the near dark.

I placed my hand on the center of her back below the shoulder blades and found that she was breathing slowly and regularly. Somebody said, "Oh dear," and someone else said, "Well I never!" and the man next to me rumbled, "We oughter get our money back if that's all there's gonna be to it." I put my head near hers and called softly, "Frances, can you hear me?" I repeated this several times, with no result whatever.

Mrs. Locke, however, had recovered and was holding a whispered conference with her solicitous confederate. He straightened up and said, "Mrs. Locke requests that you all keep your seats." Then he went about relighting the candles in the wall sconces. I reflected, as I rubbed Frances's back, how much simpler it would be if they had electric lighting in this place. Or even gas, though now that I have been away from it for a while, I daresay gaslight smells rather unpleasant.

The sense of disturbance around the table subsided somewhat, and I became gradually uncomfortable from everyone's staring at me and Frances. Everyone except Mrs. Locke, who had her hand to her head, obscuring her eyes, in a pose I thought overdramatic. My skepticism had returned; I wondered if some piece of elaborate chicanery had gone wrong, injuring an innocent in the process--for Frances was still out cold. My suspicions made me bold, and I addressed the medium directly, for surely if anyone were in charge it was she!

"Mrs. Locke," I said, then waited until her hand descended from its pose. Except for the fact that some of her hair had escaped its pins, she seemed none the worse for her recent experience. The blank expression had reclaimed her face; she looked like a life-sized doll. She did not look at me or in any way acknowledge my address, but I went on nevertheless: "Perhaps you can tell me what to do for my friend? She seemed to go into trance along with you. Surely we must bring her around!"

Slowly, and a little jerkily, like one of the automatons in Mr. Sutro's Palace, the medium turned her head upon her neck--just her head, the rest of her body did not move a jot--until her face met mine. I watched anger build up in her dark eyes, which she then proceeded to unleash on me and poor unconscious Frances.

"Get out!" Mrs. Locke shrilled. "Get out of here, both of you! How dare you come to one of my séances under false pretenses! You have created a disruption on the etheric plane, disturbed the vibrations, and caused a breach with my contact in the spirit world. You must go. Now!"

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