If Walls Could Talk: A Haunted Home Renovation Mystery
by Juliet Blackwell
Review by Mel Jacob
Signet Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451231819
Date: 07 December 2010 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
A woman haunted by a muddled ghost must solve his murder in Juliet Blackwell's If Walls Could Talk to end the haunting. MelanieTurner, head of Turner Construction, specializes in historic renovation. Her latest project, a nineteenth century home in the Pacific Heights section of San Francisco for an aging rock star and friend, Matt Addax. When she checks on him at the old house, she finds him almost comatose from a night of drinking and demolition. Then, his business partner, Kenneth Kostrow appears and threatens Matt with a nail gun. Someone had shot Kenneth with it several times and severed his right hand.
Like the sheriff in Support Your Local Sheriff who was on his way to Australia, Mel wants to decamp to Paris until her mother's death forces her into the family construction business when her father falls apart. She is also reluctant to leave her stepson Caleb. She and her father share a close relationship, but not as close as she had with her mother. Trained as an anthropologist, she enjoys the work and the challenges.
Once, she and Matt disarm Kenneth, she orders Matt to call 9-1-1 and does what she can to comfort the injured man. Later, she glimpses a faint image of Kenneth peering at her from a window of the old house yet she knows he's at a hospital. When Kenneth dies, Matt is held as the possible murderer. When an irate man arrives at the house claiming he has bought it and demands to see Kenneth, he provides a possible motive. However, Matt knows nothing about a possible sale.
Mel's old flame, Graham Donovan, now works for CA-OSHA and is charged with investigating Kenneth's death. Graham had tried to prevent her from making a disastrous marriage years ago. Divorced and with no prospects, Mel strives to keep things on a professional level with her teen age crush. She also discovers that her name had been forged on the permit application for renovation and that makes her liable for any accidents on the site.
Someone vandalizes the house apparently looking for something, but also cleaned up the mess left at the death scene. The police seem inclined to treat the death as an accident and ask few questions. The lead detective warns Mel to stay out of the case and turn over anything she finds in the house to him.
Attractive men complicate Mel's life. The next door neighbor tries to involve Mel with her son. Mel also meets a handsome young photographer and after a wine soaked dinner, spends the night in his apartment, but nothing happens except a hangover the next morning for her.
The climax puts Mel at risk, and she needs all the available allies, ghostly or alive, to help her. Blackwell keeps the pages turning. While the motive may or may not be obvious, the identity of the killer or killers remains in question until the end.