by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this review on how to enter to win a copy of Keeper of the Castle, along with a link to purchase the book where a portion goes to help support KRL & an indie bookstore.
Although San Francisco contractor Melanie Turner has developed an ability to see ghosts, she’s not yet ready to admit to the existence of omens. It would be hard to argue that the Wakefield project hasn’t seen its share of bad luck though; contractors walking off of the job, a series of accidents, and even angry protestors have all been plaguing the site. Those could be passed off as routine were it not for the sightings of two ghosts that are either terrifying workers off the job or causing them to collapse into sobbing heaps. Although Mel is intimidated more by the threat of imported spiders than immigrating ghosts, she can’t help but be drawn to the Scottish monastery that is being re-built, Hearst Castle-style, stone by stone in Marin County.
Environmentalist and green consultant Graham Donovan attempts to lure Mel into signing on to the project, but her discovery of the corpse of a cantankerous building inspector on the site seems to make the decision for her. She didn’t take into consideration motivational speaker and billionaire Ellis Elrich, the owner of the property, who knows a thing or two about persuasion. His lure of a historical remodeling project with an eye towards conservation is irresistible. The accompanying hefty check that will keep Turner Construction in operation for at least six months certainly doesn’t hurt.
Once on the Wakefield project, Mel faces Elrich’s territorial and rigid assistant, his prickly daughter, and a charming Scottish antiquities protestor. They can’t compare though, to the ghosts of an ax-wielding highlander or the mournful woman in red who have even Mel fearful of the site at night. When an attack is made on someone close to her, Mel is spurred to solve both the mystery of the ghosts’ pasts as well as discover who has been committing the far more corporal attacks.
This series is exceptional by how the author makes the presence of the ghosts seem so believable and rational. The historical setting of a Scottish monastery certainly helps, but this realism persists throughout all of the novels. Perhaps it is the education in anthropology of both Mel’s and the author that provides strongly developed cultural lore and legends. The research certainly provides fascinating details required in restorations, especially those concerning regulations to protect the environment, the structural integrity required to withstand earthquakes, and licensing that lags behind new technologies.
This is all a backdrop to the development of amiable and realistic characters, led by the endlessly appealing Mel Turner. The owner of a business in a field dominated by men, she delights in contrarily donning sparkly and feminine dresses even when accessorizing them with work boots. The author excels at blending historical scholarship, ghostly mythology, and architectural minutiae into a novel that is completely fascinating and perfectly balanced by a light tone and witty humor.
To enter to win a copy of Keeper of the Castle, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Keeper,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen December 27, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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