When a local theater troupe puts on a new play at the club, manager Avery Morgan is excited. This is just the sort of event that's destined to bring in potential new members. Okay, millionaire banker Bob Hanover has more bucks than talent and has used his position to grab the lead role, but that seems like a small price to pay...until Bob is found dead backstage.
Bob rubbed many people the wrong way, but would anyone want him dead? The short answer to that is: Who wouldn't want him dead? His long-suffereing wife had to put up with years of womanizing. The show's playwright has been tricked out of his one great idea by Bob, who claimed it as his own work. And Bob bankrupted one of the town's small businessmen. The choices are many and the time to find the killer is running short.
Avery is working overtime to keep the club open and find the killer. Fortunately, she has help with the latter task. Clemmie Bow was once a singer in the speakeasy in the club's basement. Now she's a ghost who's also a top-notch detective. Together Clemmie and Avery will find the killer—even if it kills one of them.
A Girl and Her Ghosts
By Lucy Ness
PHANTOMS AND FELONIES | Berkley Prime Crime | On sale April 6, 2021
I clearly remember the day. I was maybe eight or nine, sitting in the dining room of our family home when my mom arrived with the groceries. In those days, supermarkets offered a special perk–one volume of an encyclopedia set every week–and she’d picked up the newest one when she shopped. It was the volume for “G” and I flipped it open, and landed on the entry for Ghosts.
Sure, I’d probably heard ghost stories before that. Maybe I’d even read some in kids’ books. Absolutely, we celebrated Halloween and all those fun things that go bump in the night.
But this particular entry in the encyclopedia struck a chord. Maybe because it was in such an official book. Maybe because it included a water-color painting in full color–oozy blues, faded greens, a bright spark of gold at the center—that illustrated the story of a ghost people reported seeing carrying a lantern and walking back and forth in front of a window in a house in England.
Just thinking about it sent chills racing through me!
That is until the encyclopedia writers debunked the whole thing as the reflection of the lights of passing cars in the old, distorted glass.
I wasn’t just disappointed, I was outraged!
How dare they lead me to believe something so interesting—something so absolutely enthralling—only to pull the paranormal rug out from under me?
Once hooked, though, always hooked, and I didn’t let it go. I read ghost books, listened to friends who told tales of haunted houses and mystical happenings, spun spooky stories in my head.
These days, of course, there are plenty of ways to feed an interest in ghosts. I’ve participated in ghost hunts, explored old cemeteries, and toured haunted locations including the Mansfield Reformatory, a closed prison and supposedly the most spirit-packed place in Ohio, where I was once alone in the unused shower room when someone ran his fingers through my hair.
These are the kinds of experiences that feed a writer’s imagination and when I toured a women’s club in Akron, Ohio and learned there was once a speakeasy in the basement, the pieces clicked and I saw the opportunity to have fun with a topic I love to explore.
The Haunted Mansion mysteries were born. The heroine of the books, Avery Morgan, is the business manager of a women’s club much like the one I visited, and just like in that house, there is a speakeasy in the basement. My speakeasy, though, comes with a bonus–the ghost of Clemmie Bow, once hired as a singer and killed before she had a chance to go on stage.
Far from it! Clemmie is an unthreatening as a ghost can get, a smart and sassy young woman who has plenty to say about the living who come and go through the club. In the first book of the series, “Haunted Homicide,” Avery’s not exactly thrilled to find out she can communicate with spirits, but she comes to rely on Clemmie’s quick wits and her ghostly help when the club president is murdered.
Now the second book in the series, “Phantoms and Felonies” is on the shelves, and Avery and Clemmie are back to sleuthing. The club is hosting a murder mystery dinner designed to re-ignite interest in members and draw in new members. The plan might actually have worked if the play’s star, Bob Hanover, wasn’t found dead in the speakeasy in the middle of the play.
Avery and Clemmie have to work fast, especially when Avery’s Aunt Rosemary arrives. Rosemary is a medium and she’s determined to find out who’s haunting the old mansion. Clemmie isn’t thrilled about having her privacy invaded, and the last thing Avery wants to have to admit to her aunt is that she has the Gift.
It all results in a twisted and dangerous investigation that includes a seance.
True to life?
I’ll let readers decide. I will say that I once attended a seance for research and heard from some long-gone ancestors while I was there! It may not have been quite as dramatic as the one in “Phantoms and Felonies,” but that seance left it’s impression…and kept me interested in that spook-tacularly fascinating subject ignited by a long-ego encyclopedia entry.