Ghost in Trouble (Bailey Ruth, Ghost)
by Carolyn Hart
Review by Don Metzler
Avon Mass Market Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780061915024
Date: 25 October 2011 List Price $7.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
"Bailey Ruth Raeburn?" Kay's rich contralto voice rose in disbelief. "Oh, wait a minute. You're dead." She blinked uncertainly. "I must have a concussion."Bailey Ruth Raeburn, emissary from Heaven for the Department of Good Intentions, is once again dispatched to Earth to intervene when skullduggery is afoot. Bailey's mission this time is on behalf of freelance writer Kay Clark. Kay has unwittingly put herself in harm's way through her investigation into the supposedly accidental death of Jack Hume. Jack was heir to a vast fortune in the Oklahoma oil industry, and also a former sweetheart of Kay's, and it is evident from the outset that there is someone who badly wants to thwart Kay's investigation. Badly enough to resort to murder? Possibly.
The relationship that Bailey Ruth and Kay Clark forge is at best an uneasy one. The two of them had been acquaintances prior to Bailey Ruth's passing from this earthly veil. Kay is understandably disquieted by the idea of communing with spirits of the departed. And Bailey Ruth is hampered by a set of rules called the "Precepts for Earthly Visitation", precepts which, to her heavenly supervisor's chagrin, she finds frequent reasons to transgress.
Bailey Ruth's ability to appear and disappear at will, and to instantly transport herself to any location she chooses, are obvious assets for a sleuth. Despite Kay's misgivings, she grudgingly begins to acknowledge that if she hopes to solve the mystery of Jack Hume's death, it will only come about through the aid of this other-worldly helper. But Bailey Ruth's less-than-heavenly predilection for vanity (specifically the pride she takes in her flaming red hair and her stylish clothing) grate on Kay's sensibilities. The occasional bouts of female cattiness that this elicits provide some of the funnier moments in the story.
Carolyn Hart is an accomplished and acclaimed author of more than three dozen previous titles. The Bailey Ruth series is one of her more recent projects, and to put it bluntly, is just a heck of a lot of fun. The idea of a departed soul returning to Earth to provide aid in criminal investigations is not a new one (viva Topper!) but it is an area of fiction that provides for practically limitless possibilities of plot and characters. Carolyn Hart has made full use of those possibilities with her Bailey Ruth series. The books are a complete success both as mysteries and comedies. Bailey Ruth's penchant to remain tied to earthly pleasures, despite her unearthly existence, make both the character and the books come alive for the reader.
The only criticism I have, and it's a very minor criticism, is that in the first half of the book there were so many characters with similar names and few distinguishing traits that I sometimes had trouble keeping track of who was who.
But all in all, Bailey Ruth Raeburn is an engaging and delightful character, and Ghost in Trouble will provide hours of good reading entertainment.