Winner, 2017 APA Audie Awards - Paranormal
All Aubrey Ellis wants is a normal life, one that doesn't include desperate pleas from the dead. Her remarkable gift may help others rest in peace, but it also made for an unsettling childhood and destroyed her marriage. Finally content as the real estate writer for a local newspaper, Aubrey keeps her extraordinary ability hidden - until she is unexpectedly assigned the story of a decades-old murder.
Rocked by the discovery of a young woman's skeletal remains, the New England town of Surrey wants answers. Hard-nosed investigative reporter Levi St John is determined to get them. Aubrey has no choice but to get involved, even at the terrifying risk of stirring spirits connected to a dead woman's demise and piquing her new reporting partner's suspicions.
As Aubrey and Levi delve further into the mystery, secrets are revealed and passion ignites. It seems that Aubrey's ghost gifts are poised to deliver everything but a normal life.
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This is a murder mystery, with paranormal and romance thrown into the mix very skilfully.
The h has, from an early age, struggled to cope with her “gift” which comes in various ways, but centres around communications from the dead – and not always friendly communications. This “gift” was inherited from her father, who never managed to fully cope with the way it affected his life and, along with her mother, died in questionable circumstances (Suicide? Murder/Suicide?). Quite an emotional burden for a young girl, who was subsequently raised by an understanding grandmother in a travelling circus, where she was happy, but yearned to be “normal”.
Now settled in a small town, fighting for a reconciliation with her husband after a year of separation (which was prompted by disclosure of her “gift”), the h is reluctantly coerced into working alongside stubborn, cynical and definitely pragmatic journalist H, to investigate a 20 year old murder mystery. The H has a long term girlfriend in a long distance relationship which, on the surface, he is quite happy with.
As the two progress with the murder investigation, the h is side tracked by a ghostly message for the H, who is, to say the least, not exactly receptive to the concept. This story entwines with other revelations of her gift, the struggle of both their dying relationships, the development of their romance and the investigation of the 20 year old murder. The plot is revealed gradually, mainly in a series of long and detailed flashbacks which, I have to admit, I really dislike in written work, but somehow don’t mind in audible versions (illogical, I know!). It is told from multiple points of view, including that of the murder victim, who, ironically, never appears in ghostly form to the h to easily solve the mystery. In fact out of all the ghostly presences, the victim is conspicuous in her notable absence for most of the book.
This was a very slow burn romance as the couple’s respective other relationships took some time to end, and they both gradually grew from initial reluctant tolerance of each other, to mutual acceptance. One of the most beautiful aspects of their growing relationship was the realisation that, after his initial strong cynicism and disbelief, the H turns into the h’s strongest supporter in her attempts to cope with her gift. His unwavering acknowledgment and acceptance of who she is, makes this a very special romance, and one that, at the end of the book, seemed extraordinarily strong, considering its shaky beginnings.
One other really good feature of this book was the amount of “red herrings” in the search to find the murderer. The reader had to deal with the uncovering revelations along with the H and h, and I am pleased to admit that although I suspected the identity of the murderer, I really only had my suspicions confirmed at the very end.
A complex and moving story, beautifully narrated. No stock characters or pre set plot line. The narrator is particularly skilful, conveying perfectly the underlying melancholy of the book, and adapting the pace of reading to the plot. She was particularly good at the male voices (many narrators struggle with conveying characters of the opposite sex) and added to the depth of the story. I will definitely look for more books by the author, particularly with the same narrator.