Demons Are a Ghoul's Best Friend: A Ghost Hunter Mystery
by Victoria Laurie
Review by Paul Haggerty
Signet Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780451223418
Date: 04 March 2008 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
What do you do when a maniacal, axe-wielding killer is chasing children around an elite boarding school in upstate New York? While several choices may spring to mind, those choices become much slimmer when said killer has been dead for thirty odd years, not that it seems to have slowed him down. Fortunately, Karen O'Neal does have an answer to the problem after her niece Evie is traumatized by the ghost of Hatchet Jack: Professional Ghostbuster M.J. Holliday and crew.
M.J. usually has an easier time of things. Find the ghost, send it over to the other side, collect her fee, and move on to the next case. Most ghosts are simply confused and need a bit of a push to find their way. But some ghosts know exactly what they're doing, and they're not going to go without a fight. Fortunately for the good guys, M.J. knows what she's doing, and has the tools to make it stick. Together with her childhood friend, Gilley, and her maybe-boyfriend, the rich, hunky, and exotic Dr. Steven Sable, M.J. has found a way to take her unusual psychic gifts and make them work.
Hired by Karen to travel up to Northelm Boarding School to take a look around and solve a problem that has been ignored for three decades, the team packs up the van and heads on out. Unfortunately there are more problems than just spiritual. Evie's father doesn't believe in any of this crap, and wants Evie to see a psychiastrist. Dean Habbernathy is about to get a loan to do some major reconstruction at the school and doesn't want anyone making them look like fools in front of the world, and certainly not in front of the banks. Detective Muckleroy is trying to do a job with the facts at hand, and doesn't have a lot of time for mystical mumbo-jumbo, or the con artists who spout it. Then there are the problems within their own team. Gilley is terrified of ghosts. Steven can't figure out why M.J. won't just give in to his obvious charms, since she so clearly is interested in him in return. Steven wants to fund the group, but M.J. doesn't want to take advantage of him (Gilley has no such problems). And M.J.'s African Grey Parrot, Doc, is insanely jealous of any attention towards his human, and would like nothing better than to drive Steven off into the sunset.
There's a lot of detail in this novel. Who is Hatchet Jack? How did he die? Why are the ghosts of his victims still haunting the school? With all the stories over the years, why isn't the school more interested in doing anything, no matter how far fetched, that might at least silence the whispers. The problem with life is that nobody is truly a loner. Everyone comes from somewhere and everyone interacts with others. Horrible things may happen, but they don't happen in a vacuum. Somebody always knows something, if only the right people can be found, and if only they'll be willing to talk. Events having happened thirty years in that past make the cold trail harder to find and track, but for someone with M.J's gifts, a dead end is merely another source to talk to.
But to solve this mystery and right a horrible injustice, they're going to have to duck a vengeful ghost with a killer overhead chop, and living people with dark secrets they think best kept buried, or M.J. might just become another chapter in a folk tale that everyone believes in, but nobody will admit to.