For Kindle ASIN: B007RSLPC0
The premise in this detective novel continues from that original concept in the first: a few people, who had died and on a kind of idyllic cruise ship in limbo, can ask for a mystery surrounding their demise to be investigated. Seamus is the clever one who, although dead, goes back to the living, his spirit jumping from living body to body in order to hear and see what they do and put the clues together. Like in the first novel, Seamus, unwillingly, takes a female partner. Mildred is keen to demonstrate her investigative prowess and although she is naïve and makes blunders, Seamus is impressed at her observational skills he lacks. For example when they interview the deceased Dunbar, she spots he persistently tilts his head to one side indicating that in his living existence he was partially deaf even though now in limbo no one has an affliction.
Think Ellery Queen meets Casper, except that the friendly ghosts here are invisible and silent – for the most part. So when a man falls over a cliff edge, the obvious suspect has to be exonerated.
There are beautiful descriptive phrases thought and uttered in a way only possible by the dead in this unusual novel. Consider this as Mildred looks at the ocean over the limbo cruise ship’s rail. ‘…colours beyond what had been seen, sounds unlike any other, scents and feelings that were stimulating and calming at once, and even a taste in the air… a person’s favourite but better.’ Sensory overload, but better.
Something else we can’t have in terrestrial detective novels is the way Seamus, inside the head of a witness, finds his own moods altering in response to that of the host. For example when he is in the teenager, Brodie, he finds himself being moody and irritable; when he jumps to the policeman, Rainer, he becomes negative; then he leaps into Scarlett and at once picks up on her vivacity. Actually, Peg Herring calls her attitude ‘spirited’. I asked my wife if she thought that a pun or completely unintentional. She opted for a pun. (she’d read the book in between her university science work. She likes detective stories but can’t stand science fiction, nor unscientific fantasy tales – such as I write. In spite of her literary prejudices, she enjoyed Dead for the Money, and that speaks volumes for its entertainment value.)
There’s living human emotions and observations in this book too. A line I appreciated is where a widow, Callie, needed to switch men as, in turn they got wise of being used as an ATM.
Returning to the prose, Herring has a knack for evocative phrasing and she, like me, prefers to use real geographical places for her real world. Mackinac Island has an olde-worlde charm on the USA-Canadian border. ‘Brodie… pictured moonlit walks along the road that circled the island, the scent of lilacs, the sound of ferry horns, a trip to Arch Rock or a carriage ride through the tiny, crowded town.’
Partly because of those phrases, and the mystery-solving, Peg Herring’s Dead Detective novels are reminiscent of Joyce C Oates books, such as The Falls, which is also set on the Canadian – USA border and that one also starts with a fall. In this novel there is promise of a fall at the end too as a young woman, being chased, climbs a narrow cable up a suspension bridge. More suspense than is good for readers of a delicate constitution – be warned!
Anyone who loves detective mysteries and wonders what it might be like to be dead but not yet passed on, will find Dead for the Money an escapade they cannot put down.
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