The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Haunted Bookshop Series #1)

The Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Haunted Bookshop Series #1)

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by Alice Kimberly

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Penelope Thornton-McClure manages a Rhode Island bookshop rumored to be haunted. When a bestselling author drops dead signing books, the first clue of foul play comes from the store's full-time ghost-a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago.

Is he a figment of Pen's overactive imagination? Or is the likable, fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen


Penelope Thornton-McClure manages a Rhode Island bookshop rumored to be haunted. When a bestselling author drops dead signing books, the first clue of foul play comes from the store's full-time ghost-a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago.

Is he a figment of Pen's overactive imagination? Or is the likable, fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime?


Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Haunted Bookshop Mystery , #1
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Sales rank:
File size:
285 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Table of Contents


Title Page

Copyright Page




CHAPTER 1 - The Big Ending

CHAPTER 2 - The Author Arrives

CHAPTER 3 - A Postmortem Post

CHAPTER 4 - A Drink before Dying

CHAPTER 5 - Hard-Boiled Bogey Man

CHAPTER 6 - The Morning After

CHAPTER 7 - Crime Scene

CHAPTER 8 - Curious Jack

CHAPTER 9 - Dying for Profit

CHAPTER 10 - Inquiring Minds

CHAPTER 11 - Shadow Boxing

CHAPTER 12 - Dark and Stormy Night

CHAPTER 13 - Don’t Know Jack

CHAPTER 14 - Strangers in the Night

CHAPTER 15 - An Open Book

CHAPTER 16 - Revelations

CHAPTER 17 - A Worthy Suspect

CHAPTER 18 - To Quibble or Not to Quibble

CHAPTER 19 - Things That Get Bumped in the Night

CHAPTER 20 - The Girl in the Frame-Up

CHAPTER 21 - Booked



Don’t miss the second charming mystery in the Haunted Bookshop series.

The Ghost . . .

When Jack had been alive . . . the very blood in his veins pulsed to the beat of the city streets (when he’d had blood—and veins, that is).

Why couldn’t he have spent eternity in a place like that?

Instead he got eternity in cornpone alley.

Now the only excitement Jack ever had was scaring the crap out of small-town operators . . .



and Mrs. McClure


Her name was Penelope Thornton-McClure. And he had to admit she showed more moxie than a lot of grown men he’d pranked in the past fifty years.

Certainly, she was the first living entity he’d even considered shifting himself toward since he’d crossed over, which was hilarious because, if he’d read her thoughts right, she didn’t even believe in ghosts.


Well, he hadn’t believed in them either . . .



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.




A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author


Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / February 2004

Copyright © 2004 by The Berkley Publishing Group.


All rights reserved.
This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
For information address: The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.


eISBN : 978-1-101-01044-0


Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,
375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.
The name BERKLEY PRIME CRIME and the
BERKLEY PRIME CRIME design are trademarks belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



The author wishes to thank
Senior Editor Kimberly Lionetti and literary agent John Talbot for their valued support in giving this distinct physical incarnation to what began as the ghost of an idea.


very special thanks to
Major John J. Leyden, Jr.
Field Operations Officer, Rhode Island State Police for his helpful answers to procedural questions.







Although real places and institutions are mentioned in this book, they are used in the service of fiction. No character in this book is based on any person, living or dead, and the world presented is completely fictitious.

“You mean there is a hell?” asked Lucy. “Some people might call it so,” said the captain. “There’s a dimension that some spirits have to wait in till they realize and admit the truth about themselves.”


—R. A. Dick, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir


My life is my own, and the opinions of others don’t interest me . . .


—Carroll John Daly, “Three Gun Terry,” Black Mask, May 1923 (cited as the first published appearance of a hard-boiled detective)

Quindicott, Rhode Island 1949

Cranberry. What kind of a cornball name was that for a street?

Jack Shepard hauled his powerful frame out of the black Packard and slammed the heavy door, sending a violent shudder through the mass of metal.

Five hours. He’d just spent five dusty hours behind the wheel of this boiler, hunched up like some luckless clipster trying to crack a bag man’s safe.

With easy fingers, Jack buttoned-closed his double-breasted jacket. The suit was gunmetal gray, rising in a V from his narrow waist to his acre of shoulders. Closing his eyes, he imagined a pretty set of hands working over the kinks and knots. Tonight, thought Jack. After the drive back to Manhattan’s crowded dirty noise, he’d find a willing pair in some suds club, like he always did.

Casing the scene, Jack scanned the two- and three-story buildings that lined this lane—a kiddie version of the towering steel and glass where he usually ranged. “Town,” he muttered. That’s what two farmers had called it about ten miles back, out by the cow pasture and old mill, where he’d asked for directions. The “Welcome to Quindicott” sign came next. Farmland after, more of the monotonous rolling green he’d driven through on the way up. Then came the gradual density of houses. Trees and lawns and hedges trimmed by do-right guys. Barking dogs and chubby-cheeked kids. You had your “quaint” town square, your manicured lawn, and your white bandshell with red trim. The whole thing looked so doggone cheery, Jack expected to see a Norman Rockwell signature in the sidewalk.

The “townsfolk” in this homespun little picture looked cheery enough, too, soaking up the last hours of the orange sun’s late-summer juice. Young men in flannel. Old men with clay pipes. Farmers’ wives in gingham, and shop girls with bare legs.

These people were off the cob, all right, Jack thought, starting a casual stroll. Corny as they came. Some rocked on porches, some gabbed on benches, some ambled along the cobblestone lane—and all eyes were on him—

“Who are ya, fella?”

Curious eyes—

“Waddaya want?”

Small-town eyes—

“Ya don’t belong.”

Jack lit a butt from his deck of Luckies, then used a single finger to push back his fedora. You people want a look at my mug? Go on then, look.

Jack’s face wasn’t pretty, but no dame ever complained. His forehead was broad with thick sandy brows; his cheeks were sunken, and his nose like a boxer’s—slightly crooked with a broken-a-few-times bump. His jaw was iron, his chin flat and square—with a one-inch scar in the shape of a dagger slashing across it—and his eyes were sharper than a skiv. Freddie once told him they were the color of granite and just about as hard.

Maybe he was hard, thought Jack. But baby, this was one hick town. No painted dolls or groghounds here. No nickel rats, cheap grifters, or diamond-dripping dames looking to have their husbands set up. Just clean air, families with kids, potluck socials, and farm-fresh moo juice.

A town for settling down. That’s what this place was, thought Jack. A few of those bare-legged, unpainted country dolls passed him, gave him the shy version of the “what’s-your-name-big-fella?” once-over. Nice, thought Jack, eyeballing them right back. Shapely gams. Milky skin. Curves the way he liked them—bountiful. Jack took a long, slow drag from his Lucky and turned away. A man like him had to be careful in a place like this. Say the right thing to the wrong broad and he’d make her about a thousand times more miserable than he was.

With a slight limp, Jack continued his slow stroll—casual, easy, hands in pockets, the ache in his shin an unwanted souvenir from that underpaid job he’d done for Uncle Sam over in Germany. Jack ignored it. Continued to case the scene.

Ahead of him, a row of shops beckoned. Bakery, grocery, dress joint, beauty parlor. There it was: one twenty-two. A little more class than the other places. Probably did business with that fancy Newport set not far away. Wide plate-glass window. Words etched in: We Buy and Sell Books.

Yeah. But did they have the book he was looking for? The one they were looking for? The one they killed Freddie for?

The sun was sinking like a popped balloon now. The day was done, the lights nearly out, and just around the corner, a shadow stained the sidewalk, a city-suited figure, waiting.

Jack cursed low. Thought he’d shaken that tail.

He turned the brass handle, pushed. The shop’s bell tinkled like a bad girl’s giggle. A chill up his spine like a foot on his grave.

The shadow moved closer.

Jack’s hand rose, dipped into his suitcoat, caressed his rod’s handle, smooth from wear. He got a bad feeling, but Jack had gotten them before. And when he started a thing, he never turned back.

Besides, this job was for Freddie, and Jack promised his dead friend he’d ride this train out. All the way to the end of the line.

I stake my everlasting life on it.

When the shadow receded, Jack refocused his attention on the job at hand. Investigation and interrogation were things he’d polished as a private eye, but he’d learned as a cop—back before he’d joined up. In the service, he’d learned a lot more: About men and the things they’d do and say under pressure. About the enemy: how and why they’d lie, and, more importantly, what methods would pry the truth out of them.

The moment of truth came today.

For Jack it came sharp and hard and quick, landing at the back of his skull. But the blow didn’t kill him. The gunshots did. To the head, to the face, to the heart. Enough to make sure Jack Shepard’s everlasting promise to his friend began today . . . along with his everlasting life.


The Big Ending

Murder doesn’t round out anybody’s life, except the murdered and sometimes the murderer’s.


—Nick Charles to Nora Charles in The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett, 1933

Quindicott, Rhode Island Today

“We killed him!”

I was beside myself. In a frantic state of hand-wringing and head-shaking, I paced the length of the bookshop’s aisle from Christie to Grafton and back again.

“Calm down, dear,” said my aunt, her slight frame tipping the Shaker rocker back and forth with about as much anxiety as a retiree on a Palm Beach sundeck.

How can I calm down?” I asked. “We killed a best-selling author on the first night of his book tour!”

“Well, the milk’s gone and spilled now. No use crying over it. If you need help calming down, why don’t you have a belt?”

I was not surprised by this rather unladylike suggestion from my aunt. Sadie may have been seventy-two, and barely four feet eleven, but for an aging bantamweight she had a big mouth and a good right hook. The Quindicott Business Owners’ Association never forgot the day she’d spotted a shoplifter at ten yards (putting a Hammett first edition down his pants). She’d taken him out with one sharp Patricia Cornwell to the head.

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Ghost and Mrs. McClure (Haunted Bookshop Series #1) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 48 reviews.
Lucy_Mae_Braun More than 1 year ago
This is a cozy mystery with some added zip, a hardboiled character. This is a haunted bookshop in which the ghost was a hardboiled private detective. Lots of fun and originality. The combination is great and adds interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a fabulous first mystery. I read it in one day! I can¿t wait for another in this series! Penelope Thornton-McClure has returned to Quindicott, Rhode Island, to become co-owner of Buy the Book bookstore with her Aunt Sadie. Penelope brought her seven year old son Spencer with her. Penelope¿s husband Calvin recently killed himself. To help increase business, Penelope sets up an author appearance by Timothy Brennan, renowned author of the Detective Jack Shield story. Unfortunately Timothy chokes during his talk and dies. The next morning when Penelope wakes with a hangover, she figures his death will be the end of Buy the Book. Boy was she wrong. Apparently they sold every copy of his new book and all of his previous books as well. The next day more copies arrive. She doesn¿t know how they will sell them until they open and are mobbed once again. Then the State Police determine he was killed and arrest Brennan¿s daughter, Diedre. She and her husband Kenneth had arrived with Brennan and Shelby Cabot from the publisher¿s the night of Brennan¿s talk. About 50 years ago P.I. Jack Shepard had been shot in a bookstore in this same location. Apparently Brennan¿s Jack Shield character was built off of Jack Shepard. Penelope starts conversing with Jack Shepard in her head. Most of the time she is trying to stop hearing him, but he is very persistent. I like the interaction of Penelope and Jack, even though he¿s a ghost. This is such a well-written cozy. She has created likeable characters, including a ghost, but it isn¿t scary in the least. Matter of fact, I found it funny! The interaction between the other characters is well written as well. I also like the setting of a small Rhode Island town. The bookstore setting gives it charm. She has a real winner! I highly recommend this! You won¿t want to put it down.
RIZDA More than 1 year ago
If you like the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, I believe that you will like this book. It is interesting how the author intermixes the current and past to tell 2 stories. I read all 5 books in this series in 3 days. Light, quick read and very entertaining.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you love this series for the fun it provides, then you will love this one too. If you like cozies in general, then you will like this series. As always, there are at least two mysteries to be solved, but no goriness. For the books I recommend, I also recommend the whole series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I found this book very good. it is a different kind of mystery. It is about Penelope Thornton-McClure and the ghost of jack Sheppard. Jack Sheppard helps penelope solve a murder in the book store she co-owns with her aunt sadie. The plot keeps you clue to the book until the very end. I really enjoyed it and would recommended it.
SRei.Watson More than 1 year ago
I have always had a liked Perry Mason and The Shadow when I was growing up, I especially loved the episodes of Star Trek which had Jean Luc playing the character of Dixon Hill, the hard-boiled detective. When I got older, my obsession grew with mysteries and pulp novels. This book has both of these elements, a modern day mystery, but with the dialogue and ambiance of the old pulp novels. I highly recommend reading this book, you will love the main characters: Penelope McClure and Jack Shepard. I am looking forward to the other titles in the series, I cannot wait for the characters to grow.
cricket808 More than 1 year ago
This is a great start to a great series. A great detective team that will make you want to read more and more. I've read all 5 titles in the series and can't wait for the next one.
Lori Smith More than 1 year ago
A great story with ghost, Jack Shepard, an old school detective and living/widowed bookstore owner Penelope Thorton-McClure along with many other interesting small town characters. Great word visuals and Extraordinary vocabulary make this book a wonderful story.
oakbridge More than 1 year ago
What starts out as predictable and corny, quickly moves to a brush with times past when detectives hung to the sides of fog feathered alleys, I found myself drawn in as Jack, the ghost with a past, coaches Penelope through the dark stacks of ghostwriters. Looking forward to the next installment,
LadyTessie More than 1 year ago
I loved the combination of old school detective jargon along with modern day life. Lots of fun. The method of communication between the ghost and Mrs. McClure is clever and not typical in my experience.
BookLoverDT More than 1 year ago
The cover of this book caught my attention. Once I started reading the book that too caught my attention. I have to admit the first two chapters were hard to get through, it was a lot of "babbling". Once I finally made my way through those chapters I really did enjoy the book. Then I did not want it to end. So now I am on my way back to the bookstore to pick up the remaining series. Overall, I think this is a nice book to read on those rainy days.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The book was very good. I love suspense, romance, and humor which this story was all about.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked it
SleepDreamWrite More than 1 year ago
Well, I must say that I had fun reading this. The premise made me think of that movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. You have a newly opened bookshop, an author died at said bookshop and Penelope and her aunt along with Pen's son Spencer, running the store. All the while an investigation is going on surrounding the author's death. What happened? Any suspects? Add more to the widow's worries is ghost Jack Shepherd, haunting the bookstore. I stayed up a little, to finish this. I had maybe a couple of chapters left and wanted to know how the mystery would end, who done it, etc. I liked the writing style with the different dialogue chapters, given you an idea on whose who. That this was a quick read. I was surprised to find I was already halfway into the book, thinking, huh, wish this was a little longer, but that's okay. I'm curious as to where the story will go in the series, since near the end, it seems there's some, well unfinished business, concerning the fedora wearing ghost detective. Also liked, that there's some tension between the two, all the while Jack is helping Penelope with standing up for herself. I like that. Pretty good start to another new series I'm looking forward to catching up on.
RonnaL More than 1 year ago
What do you do when the economy is bad and your little bookstore hasn't the ghost of a chance of surviving ?  A real death in the store can definitely drum up business.  Then add a real ghost of a PI whose own murder happened in that same spot more than 50 years ago, and you've got yourself a booming new business, a murder to solve, and a fun new cozy series!  In a small town in Rhode Island, recently widowed Penelope Thornton and her Aunt Sadie have decided to host a famous mystery writer at their mystery book store.  Though he is arrogant and demonstrative, his books are big sellers.  But before he can really get into his talk, he drops dead at the podium.  Then Penelope realizes that she can hear the ghost go the PI who was murdered in her store, and he's encouraging her to solve this new murder, before the police decide Penelope is a murderer. This fun mystery plays on the hard boiled noir mysteries of yesteryear.  The ghost, Jack Shepard, dialogues in the speech of past detectives.  The chapters are all headed by quotes from characters or publications that any respectable mystery buff will recognize--like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Definitely reminiscent of the past, while creating a present mystery that will haunt you.  Luckily, there are already four more in this series for me to read.  This dame is ready to detect !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A new series by the people who brought us the coffeehouse mysteries. Penelope McClure brings her son and returns to her roots to "recover" after she becomes a widow, helping her aunt run a fading bookstore. Another unbelievable character, Jack, helps her find the answers and her own chutzpah. Will be interesting to see how the series develops
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fun cozy
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