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Night of the Living Deed (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery) by E.J. Copperman
Review by Joseph B. Hoyos
Berkley Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780425235232
Date: 01 June 2010 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Allison Kerby and her nine-year-old daughter Melissa have just moved to the historical coastal village of Harbor Haven, New Jersey. Allison plans to renovate the Victorian mansion at 123 Seafront Avenue, turning it into a guest house. However, her plans begin unraveling upon discovering her new home is haunted by the ghosts of two people (the former owner, Maxie Malone, and a detective, Paul Harrison) who were murdered there. Hilarious shenanigans soon follow as Allison learns to cope with a host of pesky ghosts, quirky friends and relatives and devious townspeople. However, the one responsible for Maxie and Paul's deaths begins threatening Allison. Unless she can find a deed hidden somewhere inside 123 Seafront Avenue, she and her daughter will be the next ones to die.

E.J. Copperman's Night of the Living Deed is a fine example of a cozy mystery. Humorous and heart-warming, it is a wonderful respite from the gritty, hard-boiled crime drama that I normally read. Night of the Living Deed is devoid of gratuitous sex and violence and, most importantly, the foul language that often grates on my nerves such as blasphemies. Allison, who is the narrator, made me laugh out loud on numerous occasions. Most importantly, the mystery itself is very intricate, complex and intriguing; it reminded me of an Agatha Christie novel, especially the ones where characters are poisoned such as Sparkling Cyanide. Determined to learn who murdered Maxie and Paul, I had a difficult time laying aside this novel. The more I read, the fonder I became of Allison and her circle of family and friends, which included the beloved ghosts.

The setting for Night of the Living Deed is superb. For both young and young at heart, it is a fantasy come to life. Ever since those Saturday morning cartoon days of watching Casper the Friendly Ghost, many of us have wondered what it would be like to live in a haunted house and have a ghost for a friend. 123 Seafront Avenue is nostalgic beachfront property in desperate need of repair. The town of Harbor Haven is rich in Revolutionary War history. Not only did George Washington sleep there but he also bought some beachfront property. Furthermore, Allison and Melissa move into the Victorian mansion in October. The novel's climax occurs on Halloween night when all the children are trick or treating. Fall is my favorite season and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays.

Allison Kerby is the novel's strong, independent heroine. She is not going to let anyone, or anything, prevent her from restoring her Victoria mansion. You can't help but admire a woman who knows how to use tools. (As for me, I think I may have used a screwdriver at one time; I do know how to change a light bulb.) Allison can deftly strip wall paper, sand floors and remove kitchen cabinets. She is also a protective mother, a good friend, a loving daughter, and an aspiring sleuth, thanks to one of the ghosts, Paul, who coaxes her. Allison is also an attractive woman; not only does Paul seem to have a crush on her but so does Melissa's handsome history teacher, Ned Barnes.

Surprisingly, Harbor Haven is a corrupt little town. There are numerous suspects who could've killed Maxie and Paul. A lot of people want to buy 123 Seafront Avenue and/or find the deed that is hidden somewhere inside. Allison can only trust her daughter, her mother, Loretta Kerby, her close personal friends, Tony and Jeannie Rogers, and the two ghosts. Despite the humor, there is quite a bit of suspense as Allison searches for the killer's identity. Allison finding a dead body is shocking as well as the shootout in the haunted McArver Cemetery. Furthermore, this novel has some plot twists a la Agatha Christie.

Fans of paranormal cozy mysteries will not be disappointed with Night of the Living Deed, the debut in a new series (A Haunted Guesthouse Mystery) written by E.J. Copperman, which is the mysterious penname for a popular author. Night of the Living Deed is a beautiful blend of Gothic mystery, horror and romance. What captivated me the most was the bountiful assortment of lovable, delightful characters. I am definitely looking forward to reading about them again. In fact, I plan on haunting the local bookstores until the sequel, An Uninvited Guest, is published in April of 2011.

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