by Margaret Lucke
Check out a short story of Margaret’s featured in a past podcast at the end of this post.
Do you believe in ghosts? What about other aspects of the supernatural?
These are questions I get asked as the author of the Claire Scanlan Haunted House Mysteries. I’m excited that the second in the series, House of Desire, debuted earlier this month and is finding its way to readers.
Spirits of the departed play a prominent role in these books. My protagonist, Claire Scanlan, is a novice real estate agent who’s reinventing her life following an unhappy divorce. When she goes into certain houses, she senses strange energies and presences that no one else can detect—a talent that both fascinates and repels her.
In the first book, House of Whispers, Claire is thrilled to get the listing to sell a gorgeous oceanfront home in Marin County, just north of San Francisco. But buyers stay away because a family was murdered there. The crime is considered solved, but the spirit of the family’s daughter reaches out to Claire, warning that the murderer is still out there and more people are in danger. It’s up to Claire to find the truth and prevent another tragedy.
While writing House of Desire, I was surprised to discover that the story had not one but two paranormal elements. It’s a ghost story, but even more than that, it’s a tale of time travel.
The spirit in House of Desire is not a murder victim. Josephine Burnham was born in her family’s Victorian mansion in 1906, on the day the famous San Francisco earthquake strikes. She lived there her entire life and died there of natural causes when she is well over a century old. Now she is reluctant to move on from the house until her long-ago lover, who died in World War Two, can come back and guide her to the Place Called Forever.
Now the three grandchildren who are her heirs are squabbling over the house. One grandson wants to sell it to developers who will turn it into condos; he’ll score a lot of money if this deal goes through. His history-minded brother wants to sell it to a preservation group who will make it as a museum. Much less money to be made, but the family’s legacy will be preserved. Their sister, the deciding vote, is waffling.
Claire joins the preservationists’ cause. While attending their fundraising gala in the mansion, she encounters a mysterious young woman whom no one else can see. This is Roxane—a “soiled dove” who is plying her trade in the mansion in 1896. Roxane has discovered a secret portal that lets her slip into what she calls the Future House when she needs to escape the most brutal of the men who buy her favors.
When the preservation group’s leader is murdered in the mansion, Roxane is the sole witness. Terrified, she returns to her own time and enlists the only true gentleman she has ever met to help her find justice for the victim.
Claire’s philandering brother-in-law is accused of being the killer. To clear his name Claire must find the elusive Roxane—which means risking a perilous journey into the past from which she may never return.
When I began writing, I expected Roxane to be a minor character, but she demanded a more prominent role. She insisted I go back into the past and recount her life in the mansion when it was a fancy bordello known as Chez Celeste. So House of Desire, like Roxane, moves back and forth between two centuries. The story of Josephine, spanning well more than one hundred, links the two time periods together.
Back to the question. Do I really believe in ghosts? In time travel? No, I don’t. The way I depict the paranormal in my books is pure fantasy.
What I do believe is this: The boundaries of what we call reality are far wider than we give them credit for. If we open our eyes and ears and minds and hearts, who knows what amazing things we might encounter?
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Also listen to our new mystery podcast where mystery short stories and first chapters are read by actors! They are also available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and Spotify. A new episode went up last week!
A short story by Margaret was featured in a past podcast episode. You can find it here, or check out the player below:
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Website: Margaret Lucke “The Power of Stories, The Magic of Creativity.”
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