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Posted April 21, 2012
What would you do if you moved to a new town, took a new job, moved into old cottage, and discovered it was haunted? And what would you do if the ghost asked you to find out who his killer was? And what would you do if the ghost was totally irresistible? That's the story Marilyn Levinson tells in Giving Up The Ghost.
The story revolves around Gabby Meyerson. Recovering from a nasty divorce, Gabby decides to start a new life in the small town of Chrissom Harbor. She takes a job as a fill-in English teacher, replacing another teacher who is having some surgery. She rents a cottage on the beach, and settles in.
From the beginning Gabby senses there is something not right with the cottage. She has the spooky feeling she is being watched. Things move on their own. There are strange cold drafts with no apparent source. And, sometimes she hears voices.
The place is haunted. Before long the ghost introduces himself. He is Cameron Leeds. A dashingly handsome ladies man, he was also in business. And being in business he made some enemies. There were more than a few people who wouldn't mind seeing him dead. He just doesn't know who did it. Cameron's death was ruled an accident by police. He was drunk and fell off the sea-side cliffs. Cameron tells Gabby that he was actually killed in the cottage, and then his body was thrown over the cliffs to make it look like an accident.
And Cameron has a request. The ghost can't leave the room he was killed in. He asks Gabby if she would do some investigating, and find out who the killer was. At first she is reluctant to do this. But she gets caught up in the small-town gossip. In a small town, everybody knows everyone, and everyone knows everyone's secrets. Gabby believes finding the killer shouldn't be that hard to do. And she is learning things about her new town. Lots of things. Gabby becomes involved in the lives, deaths, and romances of pretty much everyone in town.
Gabby learns that while Cameron could be a charming man, he was also a shrewd businessman. And as a businessman he sometimes took advantage of people for financial gain. And not everything he did was legal. Gabby discovers that Cameron had quite a few enemies in town. And the killer could be any one of them. Her question now was, which one?
Gabby also learns that Chrissom Harbor is a town with many secrets. Secrets everyone knows about. It's also a town which enforces its own justice. A rapist would be very nearly beaten to death. Would it really be unusual that somebody would kill the local swindler? Gabby now has lots of suspects. By day she is an ordinary schoolteacher, dealing with the usual classroom problems. By night she is an amateur detective, trying to solve a murder.
Over time Gabby becomes obsessed with finding the murderer. And she has quite a number of prime suspects. Then Cameron tells her he doesn't think he was killed because of a business deal gone bad. He had half a million in cash in the cottage. And it was missing. It looked liked a robbery gone bad. So now Gabby has a whole new list of suspects. And Cameron reveals he had “slept around” with the wives of local men. Was it a cuckolded husband who killed him?
And then, Cameron drops the bombshell. He said the killer had certainly heard she had been snooping around town, asking about the murder. In that case he would likely kill Gabby. So she was no longer just an armchair sleuth. She was probably a target. She starts to get death threats. Telling her to back off the case, and ask no more questions.
But Gabby is a strong woman, and somewhat stubborn, and isn't about to back away until she finds out who killed her ghost. And to find the killer Gabby will have to explore the deepest secrets of Chrissom Harbor. But everything seems to be interrelated. It's all connected together. There is no way to chisel out any one person as a suspect.
It is upon this basis that author Levinson builds her story of a woman who is just not going to give up. Although the book is billed as a “ghost story” it really isn't much of one. There is a ghost in it. But it isn't a scary one, and actually it is really friendly. It's not really a horror novel either. Except for the horror Gabby feels as she learns someone is out to kill her. And, although there is some well-written romance in the book, I wouldn't call it a romance novel. It's really just a solid mystery, with a good deal of suspense thrown in.
As a mystery, Giving Up The Ghost is well worth the time. The plot and character development is solid, and the book is correctly paced. And, unlike many mysteries it doesn't wander. The author knows exactly where she wants to take you. The small town setting is compelling, and adds a sense of intimacy to the plot. You'll get to know Gabby quite well, and see why she is determined to find the killer of a man she never met (except as a ghost). Highly recommended.