The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary

The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary

by Sue Ann Jaffarian
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The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary by Sue Ann Jaffarian

In this all-new novella from the author of Ghost in the Guacamole, Granny Apples, medium Emma Whitecastle, and psychic PI Jeremiah Jones join forces to find a missing homeless woman.
When a homeless veteran on LA’s Skid Row claims he’s seen the ghost of Mistletoe Mary, a down-and-out prostitute, private investigator Jeremiah Jones seeks the assistance of medium Emma Whitecastle and her great-great-great grandmother, the spirited Granny Apples, to determine if the woman is merely missing or if indeed someone has murdered her.

Praise for The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary

"Jeremiah Jones, introduced in Ghost in the Guacamole, is center stage here in Sue Ann Jaffarian’s grittiest and most moving story in this mystery series. With the action all taking place within a few blocks of downtown Los Angeles, the sense of place is present on every page. Sue Ann Jaffarian is one of my favorite living traditional mystery writers—you won’t be able to guess who did it!"—Naomi Hirahara, Edgar Award-winning author of Murder on Bamboo Lane

“Gritty, hardboiled and ghostly all in one, Sue Ann Jaffarian invents a new genre—Ghost Noir—and makes it her own in the engaging and fast-paced The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary, the latest in her addictive Granny Apples series.”—Paul D. Marks, Shamus Award Winning author of the noir-thriller White Heat
“For fans of Granny, it is well worth reading The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary.  It might not be your typical Christmas cozy, but the story is enjoyable and will stick with you after you’ve read it.”—Carstairs Considers

Praise for the Granny Apples Mysteries

"Sue Ann Jaffarian never fails to make me chuckle."—New York Times bestselling author Joanne Fluke

"Likable characters and steady suspense...[Jaffarian] makes paranormal activity seem plausible. One of the best cozy authors for light chatter and low-key humor."—Library Journal (starred review)
"A charming tale, as appealing as apple pie."—Harley Jane Kozak, author of Dating Dead Men
"Officially proves the vivacious Jaffarian is the literary heir apparent to Lucille Ball...A rollicking good time...Refreshing, enthralling, and absolutely eclectic mix of laugh-out-loud fun, heart-touching moments, whimsy, and rapid-fire page turning."—The Book Resort
"Delectable...[An] appealing ghost story."—Publishers Weekly
"Another charming entry in a series that remains fun while seamlessly incorporating an incorporeal spirit who feels real and whose love of pop culture is always welcome...[A] mystery that expertly blends a novel of mature romances, spirits, and exciting action."—Kings River Life Magazine


Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780698408111
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Series: Ghost of Granny Apples Series
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 148
Sales rank: 93,947
File size: 683 KB

About the Author

Sue Ann Jaffarian is the critically acclaimed author of three mystery series: the Ghost of Granny Apples Mysteries, the Odelia Grey Mysteries, and the Madison Rose Vampire Mysteries. In addition to being a writer, Sue Ann is a full-time paralegal for a Los Angeles law firm and a sought-after motivational speaker.

Read an Excerpt

Titles by Sue Ann Jaffarian

Title Page



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Excerpt from Ghosts of Misty Hollow

About the Author

Chapter 1

Cardboard lean-tos, small colorful tents, and plastic tarps lined the streets like crude Monopoly houses on a cracked and littered game board. Parked next to some of them were shopping carts filled with street debris and the few personal belongings of the occupants of the makeshift homes. Some of the more unfortunate slept out in the open, without the benefit of cover.

The early-morning quiet was disturbed only by the occasional passing vehicle or phlegmy coughing of the street’s residents. Somewhere nearby, a dog barked. The bark wasn’t tough and eager, but plaintive, cutting its way through the gray morning like the whining of a sick child. Jeremiah Jones heard the dog’s bark and recognized it as that of Lola, the tiny scruffy mutt that belonged to Bucket, one of the many broken and discarded people who called the cold streets of downtown Los Angeles home.

Jeremiah was on San Pedro Street where it intersected with 5th Street. The December air was damp and chilly, tainted with the smell of lingering exhaust and urine. The light had turned green but he didn’t move through the intersection. Instead, he sat astride his motorcycle, visor up on his helmet, and continued to take in the atmosphere around him. No one cared that he didn’t move. At six a.m. on a Sunday, with sunrise barely showing, there were very few drivers in downtown LA to complain.

Jeremiah had once called these streets home. It had been for a very short time, no more than six months, right after he’d returned home from Viet Nam, but he’d never forgotten, not for a single day, what it felt like to have an empty belly, a concrete bed, and no hope.

Lola whined again. Jeremiah turned his head in the direction of the sound. He’d come downtown this morning to seek out Lola’s master, but first he wanted to find Red Watkins, the man who had contacted him about Bucket. He shifted on his bike, stretching out his back. At sixty-eight, sometimes riding it was hard on his aging body, but he loved the freedom of roaring down the road astride the hefty vehicle and knew he wouldn’t give it up until he could no longer lift his long legs to mount it.

Downtown Los Angeles was home to several homeless outreach programs, including the well-known Union Rescue Mission founded in 1891 and located at San Pedro and 6th streets just a block ahead of him. Another block to his right was the Los Angeles Mission. Founded in 1936, it occupied a huge chunk of real estate at the corner of 5th and Wall streets. Jeremiah had always found it ironic that in New York Wall Street was the center and icon of financial greed. In Los Angeles, it was in the center of Skid Row.

Red Watkins managed City of Angels Veterans Outreach. A small nonprofit that started up during the Viet Nam War, it didn’t provide services as much as helped homeless and poor veterans maneuver the various agencies offering such services so that the veterans could find and receive the help they needed, such as food and shelter, legal assistance, and healthcare. Red and his small team helped their clients fill out and file forms and often provided rides to doctor appointments. They held legal clinics and collected warm clothing and personal hygiene articles to pass out. They even coerced local produce companies and restaurants to give them food earmarked for disposal, which was then distributed. For those veterans not strung out on booze or drugs or whose emotional problems could be stabilized, they cleaned them up and helped them find jobs. The goal of Angels was to get as many veterans, men and women who had sacrificed so much to serve their country, off the streets and back into mainstream society to live productive lives.

Jeremiah Jones was one of their success stories. He’d returned from Viet Nam suffering from PTSD—post-traumatic stress disorder—and depression. Over time, Angels helped him get the help he needed. He not only returned to his family, but married and went on to become a Los Angeles homicide detective. Now that he was retired from the police force, he operated his own private detective agency. Jeremiah also believed in giving back and often gave his time to Angels whenever they needed him. Red had contacted him yesterday looking for help with Bucket.

Bucket’s staked-out spot was on San Pedro just beyond the intersection, but Jeremiah turned his motorcycle right and slowly headed up 5th Street. At Wall Street, he turned right again. The offices of City of Angels Veterans Outreach were located in an old storefront on the left just a few yards from the intersection and just around the corner from the Los Angeles Mission. Small convenience stores and dumpy businesses selling shabby clothing, knock-off electronics, and other cheap items, lined the streets in this area, including around the office of Angels. These wouldn’t open for a few hours yet, their roll-down security gates currently shut tight like rusty silver eyelids closed in sleep. Almost all blank walls in this area were covered in graffiti, some of it talented artwork, but mostly it was garish vandalism.

Jeremiah pulled a U-turn in front of the Angels office and stopped at the curb. Its large glass window was mostly painted over with its name and the types of assistance it provided, but the lights were on and cast a hopeful but tenuous shine onto the dingy street. In a nod to the holiday season, colored lights outlined the window on the inside in red and green for their Christian clients and in blue for their Jewish clients. Elsewhere on the street, in windows and hanging from lampposts, were other signs of the impending holiday season. On the sidewalk on either side of the Angels office, people wrapped in dirty sleeping bags and rags lay on the ground or sat propped up against the buildings next to carts filled with their belongings. Some stirred, but others were still asleep, most likely sleeping off drunkenness from the night before. None took much notice that the holidays were upon them.

In a narrow space between the buildings housing Angels and its neighbor, a tall black man dressed in old jeans and a worn olive-green field jacket over a gray hoodie was peeing against one of the walls. When he was done, he emerged from the space, walking with a pronounced limp, and lit a stubby cigarette butt with a cheap plastic lighter the color of canned creamed corn. Jeremiah watched him. He’d seen him before while volunteering at Angels. His name was Sloan, Jeffrey Sloan, but he preferred to be called simply Sloan. He wasn’t much more than thirty and had fought in Afghanistan. The limp was from a prosthetic leg that didn’t fit properly. Sloan didn’t appear to be hungover from either drugs or booze this morning, although Jeremiah remembered him having a drinking problem. Jeremiah called him over. “Hey, Sloan, want to make a few bucks?”

The man looked at Jeremiah warily, like a stray dog worried about Animal Control, before taking a few awkward steps toward him. “What do I have to do?” If he recognized Jeremiah, he didn’t show it.

“Watch my bike for me,” Jeremiah told him as he dismounted and took off his helmet. “I have a short meeting inside with Red Watkins.” He jerked a thumb toward the Angels’ window. “I’ll give you five bucks.”

After a few seconds, Sloan said, “Yeah, that’s cool. I’ll do it.” He came closer and his dull brown eyes sparked for a second with recognition. “Hey, I know you. Didn’t you and I talk a couple of times at Angels?”

“Yes,” Jeremiah said with a single nod. “How’ve you been doing, brother?”

Sloan took a deep drag from his cigarette, shrugging as he exhaled. “Some days are better than others, hear what I’m sayin’?”

“Ya, it’s like that,” Jeremiah agreed.

“Red has me in an AA program for vets. I’m trying to work it. He says if I can stay off the booze and drugs, he might be able to get me a steady job. He’s hooked me up with a part-time one for now.”

“That’s a great goal. Something worth shooting for.”

Sloan shrugged again. “Yeah, I’ve been sober almost six weeks, but it ain’t easy, man. Especially out here.”

“I know what you mean,” Jeremiah said with encouragement, “but keep it up.” He studied Sloan’s face. His eyes were clear, no sign of drug use or impairment of any kind. He also wasn’t as dirty as some of the others on the street and neither were his clothes. If Red was working with Sloan, then he was also providing him with regular showers and access to clean clothing. It was part of Red’s process of easing homeless people with promise back into mainstream society. It was a system based on rewards. As long as Sloan kept up with the AA meetings and stayed sober, he would earn simple but important rewards like showers and clothing, more and better food, and eventually even some part-time paid work and a safe but humble place to crash. Once he proved he was ready, he’d be set up with job interviews.

The administrators at Angels had learned over the years that homeless men and women couldn’t be dumped back into society without rehabilitation, especially if they had been on the streets for any length of time. They had to be eased back into it and coached in things as simple as manners and speech, and given counseling. Some of their candidates had washed out, but the rewards system had more successes than failures. The men and women had to prove they were ready, and by earning the opportunities they also built pride and confidence in themselves. Red also preached pay-it-forward, and many of Red’s successes returned to help their fellow veterans make the same transition or to provide support and help for those who never would.

Jeremiah knew that if Sloan was almost two months sober and working part-time, he might already be set up in some sort of temporary housing, like a group home or a shared subsidized apartment nearby, where he could start rebuilding his life. Angels was careful not to overload their clients with too much stress at first. They wanted to avoid triggers that might send the people they were helping back to the waiting arms of their addictions.

“Thanks,” Jeremiah said, as he passed Sloan and headed for the door of the outreach organization. “I’ll be out as soon as I can.”

“No problem, man,” Sloan said, positioning himself closer to Jeremiah’s motorcycle. “I got no place to go until breakfast at the Mission.”

The offices of City of Angels Veterans Outreach had had a makeover in the last year thanks, in part, to vandalism. The place had been broken into and nearly destroyed, bringing the tiny cash-strapped nonprofit to its knees and close to closing. That was when Rose Carson, the office manager, set about to fight her own war by strong-arming local politicians, celebrities, and business owners to finance the cleanup, literally begging for every dollar. It was slow going with most of the cash coming in dollar by dollar from people who couldn’t afford it, but Rose and Red refused to give up. Then the plight of Angels caught the ear of a local journalist who did a human interest story for the Los Angeles Times. It had been buried on the back page, but had still managed to catch the eye of a local celebrity with a social conscience. He’d set up a page for Angels on and spread the word. Soon the organization had over eight hundred thousand dollars in its coffers, along with donations of repair supplies and new office equipment. Angels had been spared and along with it many desperate lives.

“Hey, Jeremiah,” Red Watkins said as he unlocked the front door and let Jeremiah in. He locked the door after him. Angels wasn’t open for business yet and wouldn’t be for a few hours. Red had asked Jeremiah to come in early so they could speak privately. The two men embraced warmly. “Thanks for coming.”

Originally the office space had been one very long room with a tiny bathroom and kitchenette at the back. Thanks to the recent renovation, the original office space had been carved in half to create more types of space. The front was separated into two areas—the work area, which was crammed with desks, chairs, and file cabinets, and a small waiting area by the door. The two front areas were separated by a railing and a gate. Everything still smelled fresh and, more important, hopeful. Red led Jeremiah through the gate and the open area to the back half where a hallway now bisected a new wall that closed off part of the original space. On either side of the hallway were two tiny offices, one on the left and one on the right, both with glass windows that looked out onto the open area. One was Red’s office. The other was used as a conference room. Red had wanted Rose to take the other office, but she had refused. She felt her place was up front, near the door where she could keep an eye on things, and that’s where her large desk was located. You didn’t buck Rose Carson when her mind was made up. Jeremiah knew that personally. He also knew she wouldn’t be here for the meeting with Red, although she knew about it. Jeremiah had left her asleep back at her place. Last night over dinner, when he prodded her on more details about the meeting with Red, she’d only told him that Red would fill him in about Bucket in the morning. Rose didn’t like work spilling into their private time.

Farther down the new hallway were the small kitchenette, now refurbished, and a small supply room on one side, and on the other side of the hall, Angels pride and joy. The tiny closet-size bathroom with its toilet and small sink still existed for employees and volunteers’ use, but the contractor had added next to it a new bathroom that also included a small shower stall, a stackable washer and dryer, and a small bench. This was where clients could come and get cleaned up, and Jeremiah knew that almost every day there was a waiting list for its use. Both Red and Rose believed that if a man or woman felt clean and were clean, it was the first step to reclaiming their dignity.

“Thanks for coming, Jeremiah,” Red said, showing him to a seat across from his desk. “Coffee? I just made a fresh pot.”

“Sure,” Jeremiah answered as he put his helmet on a corner of the desk and stashed his gloves inside before taking a seat. “Black.”

Red left and returned with two chipped mismatched mugs of hot, steaming black coffee. Jeremiah smiled as he took his first sip, knowing that none of the donated money had gone to luxuries like nice mugs. Rose would not have allowed that even if the organization’s board had approved it. It had gone to remodeling the office and for a few extra items for the people they served. The rest was in the bank as a cushion in the event the usual annual donations dried up.

“So what’s up with Bucket?” asked Jeremiah after they’d each taken several sips.

Howard Watkins, better known as Red for reasons still unknown to Jeremiah, was a portly man in his late fifties. A big meaty nose and loose jowls were the most prominent features on his pasty white face, often drowning out his intelligent blue eyes. His hair was mostly gone and the wisps that remained circling his head were a yellowish-gray. He had once been an ordained Catholic priest, but over twenty years ago he’d given up a comfortable post at a well-to-do parish and the church to marry a woman he’d fallen in love with while counseling her on the loss of her older brother from drug addiction. He and Hope, a teacher in Los Angeles, eventually married and had two boys of their own, and stood firmly committed to fighting drug abuse among young people. For years Red worked as a full-time drug counselor at various rehab facilities. One day while watching the news, Red saw a report on the growing problem of drug addiction, alcoholism, and homelessness among veterans. With Hope’s support, Red left his job as a counselor and went to work as the head administrator of Angels. He’d been with the organization for about seven years. From time to time, Jeremiah and Rose and Hope and Red got together socially. Even then, Rose did not allow shop talk over meals, claiming they all needed to take a break from it to keep their sanity. As usual, the woman was right.

Red leaned back in his chair, which was also a new purchase. His old one, bought secondhand decades before and used by the last two administrators, had been held together with duct tape. “As you know,” he began, “Bucket can be a bit delusional and we fear he’s now suffering from dementia.”

“Is he getting worse?” Jeremiah asked with concern. “Do you think he’s a danger to others or to himself?”

“He doesn’t seem to be violent, more like talking crazy with the crazy escalating last week.”

“His alcoholism is pretty advanced. Maybe it’s that,” Jeremiah suggested. “Maybe we should see if we can get him into a long-term facility?” Jeremiah was surprised by the topic. Usually Red didn’t consult him on such matters. Men and women going into the final downward spiral happened all the time and Bucket was around seventy years old. The fact that he remained alive after all this time given his condition was a miracle on its own.

“I have calls out to find him a place, but no one has an available room right now, not to mention Bucket will not go willingly. He says he can’t leave Lola behind and he can’t take a dog to these places.” Red took a long pull from his coffee before continuing. “This time, there’s something more going on.” He patted the bulge that covered his belt. “I feel it in my gut, Jeremiah, and I wanted you to talk to him and nose around a bit to see if I’m right or if it’s just Hope’s spicy meatloaf talking.”

“What’s Bucket saying?” Jeremiah put down his coffee mug and leaned forward. Usually when Red had a gut feeling about a vet, it wasn’t indigestion.

“Do you know a woman down here known as Mistletoe Mary?” Red asked.

Jeremiah nodded. “Sure, I’ve heard of her. Doesn’t she hang out around the Union Rescue Mission. A crackhead prostitute, correct? Emaciated white woman with straggly blond hair.”

Red nodded. “Yes, except she managed to kick the crack a few years back, but not the alcohol. I hear she still turns tricks for booze or a meal. She’s gotten into a lot of fights with several of the other women down here, including a few of our female vets.”

“How did she ever get the name Mistletoe Mary?” Jeremiah asked. “Seems like a warm and fuzzy moniker to me, hardly fitting for someone like her.”

Red took another drink from his mug and rocked in his chair. “Several years ago, she fastened a clump of mistletoe to her hair that she’d stolen from one of the shops and went around demanding that the men kiss her. She didn’t get far before the cops nabbed her for the theft. She spent the night in jail, then was released. After that, everyone called her Mistletoe Mary. Her real name is Mary Dowling. For years before the drugs took over, I believe she worked the streets in Hollywood. Then she came down here.”

“Is she bothering Bucket?” Jeremiah asked.

“You might say that,” Red said with caution. “He claims her ghost is coming to him saying she was murdered.”

Jeremiah straightened in his chair as if his shoulders had been yanked back. “Her ghost?”

“That’s what I said. In fact, Bucket is insistent that it’s her ghost. He rants and raves off and on throughout the day about it. I’ve seen it myself. Oddest thing. One minute he’ll be stark raving mad, yelling about her being murdered, and the next he’ll be meek as a kitten.”

Jeremiah rubbed a hand over the salt-and-pepper stubble on his head as he digested Red’s words. A ghost in the mix put a different spin on the problem, and for a minute Jeremiah wondered if Red knew that he could see and communicate with ghosts. If Red did know, Jeremiah wanted to know how. Only two people knew of Jeremiah’s medium talents—Emma Whitecastle, the famous medium, and Phil Bowers, her fiancé who was an attorney in San Diego. Not even Rose knew. In fact, not even Jeremiah’s dead wife had known. Jeremiah had kept it a safely guarded secret ever since the first time it happened when he was a soldier in Viet Nam. He was pretty sure Emma and Phil wouldn’t say anything. They didn’t even know until he’d crossed paths with them while working a PI case earlier in the year. He’d become pretty friendly with them since and neither had ever mentioned knowing Red Watkins, even when Jeremiah had put the touch on them over Thanksgiving for a donation to Angels for the Christmas season. Both had given generously and without a single moment of hesitation.

One other person did know, he remembered. Granny, Emma’s irascible great-great-great grandmother knew he was a medium, but Granny was a ghost and unless Red could speak to spirits himself, she would have no way of telling him, not that she would. Jeremiah trusted Granny with his secret as much as he trusted Emma and Phil.

“So how would you like me to help?” Jeremiah asked, taking his hand from his head and wrapping it back around his coffee mug.

“I think you could be valuable in two ways, Jeremiah,” Red told him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his desk. “That is, if you have the time. I know you have your own business to run.”

“Right now it’s pretty slow, Red,” Jeremiah told him, “so just tell me how I can help you.”

“First of all, I asked around and no one has seen Mistletoe Mary in a while.”

“What’s a while?” Jeremiah asked. “A month? Two weeks?”

“She a fixture down here,” Red explained. “Hardly a day goes by without seeing her somewhere within these few blocks. If we could find her, we could immediately put this Bucket thing to rest and chalk it up to dementia. So I’d like you to find her or find out what happened to her. Failing that, I know you met that Whitecastle woman from TV. Do you think you could persuade her to come down here and check out Bucket’s story?”

“Do you believe in that stuff, Red?” Jeremiah asked, keeping his face as neutral as possible.

Red threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “I don’t know what to believe, but Bucket is stirring up folks. Some think there’s a murderer running around. Others are getting annoyed with his rantings. I’m afraid someone will hurt him just to shut him up. Or that others will get worked up into a frenzy of fear. We’ve called the LAPD and they sent someone down, but without the presence of a body or any witnesses except for a demented old drunk, they had nothing to investigate.”

“I see your dilemma,” Jeremiah said. “Don’t worry, I’ll look into it. I can’t promise to deliver Emma Whitecastle on the ghost part, but I’ll give that a try, too.”

Red let loose a big sigh of relief. Stretching a beefy hand across the desk, he shook Jeremiah’s hand with gratefulness. “Thank you, Jeremiah. I knew I could count on you. Hopefully, Mary’s just moved to a different part of the city. It certainly wouldn’t break my heart if that’s the case since she can be a bit of a troublemaker.”

Once he was back out on the street, Jeremiah pulled some cash out of his pocket and peeled off a five-dollar bill. He held it out to Sloan, who was dutifully still guarding Jeremiah’s motorcycle. He started to hold the money out to him, then retracted it. Peeling off another five, he held them both out to Sloan, who seemed reluctant to take the cash.

“That’s not what we agreed on,” Sloan said.

“No,” agreed Jeremiah, “but I have another job for you. Do you know a woman down here by the name of Mistletoe Mary?”

Sloan nodded. “She’s bat-shit crazy, so I stay clear. Who needs that nasty piece of trash?”

“Do you remember when you saw her last?”

Sloan pulled on the strings of his hoodie while he thought about it, then shook his head. “Not really. Maybe at one of the Thanksgiving dinners. Maybe just after that. But not in the past few days, that’s for sure.”

“Take the money,” Jeremiah told him. When Sloan did, Jeremiah rummaged in his pocket and pulled out a fistful of change. “Here’s a bunch of quarters,” he said, sorting out the larger coins. “Don’t spend them, you hear?” Sloan took the money and nodded. Jeremiah pulled out one of his PI business cards from another pocket. “If you see Mistletoe Mary, you’re to call me. No matter what time it is, call me. Night or day. Use those coins for the pay phone. If for some reason you can’t find a pay phone, ask Red or Rose at Angels here if you can use theirs to call me. You understand?”

“Yes, sir.” Sloan slipped the bills and change into his pocket before taking the card and studying it, then it disappeared into his pocket. “You want me to ask around about her, too?”

“That would be a help, Sloan. See what you can find out.” Jeremiah slipped on his helmet and straddled his motorcycle. Before he took off, he said to the man on the curb, “Sloan, I was once on the streets myself. Now I have a business and a home. Listen to Red. Stay sober and clean and listen to him. It will take time, but you’ll be okay if you stay the course.”

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The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Anonymous 11 months ago
I love these books and decided to read the series again before buying Misty Hollow. Looking forward to reading it. Love Granny, she is such a hoot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I love the Granny Apple series because they are quick reads and capture your attention. The quick wit of Granny and her feisty demeanor keep you wanting more. This is the fourth Granny Apple book I have read and they never fail to deliver.
Carstairs38 More than 1 year ago
Ghostly Christmas Mystery It’s a Sunday at the beginning of December when Jeremiah is asked to come down to skid row in Los Angeles. Jeremiah is good friends with Red Watkins, who runs a mission targeted at vets. He’s even volunteered his time with The City of Angels Veterans Outreach in the past. That’s why Red turns to him when a homeless vet nicknamed Bucket starts to act funny. Bucket has started talking about Mistletoe Mary being murdered to anyone who will listen. Mary is a familiar fixture on skid row since she has made a living as a prostitute down there for years. No one has seen her for a couple of weeks, but since she’d been talking about going to live with her daughter, no one has been that concerned. Jeremiah is able to see ghosts, a fact he has hidden from almost everyone who knows him. He is fairly certain that something has happened to Mistletoe Mary, and she is haunting Bucket. But can he find Mary’s ghost and then prove what really happened to her without giving away his secret? Skid row? A prostitute? Los Angeles? No, this is not your typical cozy Christmas mystery filled with snow and carols even if there is a murder involved. In fact, this might be headed a bit toward the soft boiled end of the cozy spectrum. However, while the story never tries to hide who these characters are, it doesn’t go into detail or get too graphic. The result is a stark reminder about how people are forced to live by circumstances or horrible choices and it’s a good reminder every so often, but especially during the holidays. Of course, to keep things from getting too dark, we have Granny. She appears with her usual jokes to help lighten things up, and she does a great job of that. I liked Jeremiah when he appeared in the last novel, and I enjoyed getting to know him much better in this story. Emma and Phil do make a cameo appearance or two, but this is really his story. That means most of the supporting cast and suspects are also brand new characters, and they are well-developed as well. Being a novella, there is really no room for anything that doesn’t advance the story, and Sue Ann knows it. Things never slow down, and we still get some interesting twists I wasn’t expecting before we reach the end. And that last chapter? I was reading it in the middle of a bookstore while waiting at a book signing. And I was trying not to start crying as I read it since I was out in public. It’s beautiful, and is guaranteed to give you that dose of holiday spirit you’d expect from a book set during December. As I mentioned, this is an e-novella, so if you are like me and prefer to read a paper copy, you’ll have to make an exception in this case. There are apps available for smart phones and computers so you don’t have to buy an e-reader to read the story. That’s what I used, in fact. For fans of Granny, it is well worth reading The Ghost of Mistletoe Mary. It might not be your typical Christmas cozy, but the story is enjoyable and will stick with you after you’ve read it. NOTE: I was sent an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.