This is a witty book featuring an engaging heroine, Pepper Martin, with an unusual profession (or, as she puts it, her Gift): PI to the dead. She also has a boyfriend, police detective Quinn, and a mother who is continually pushing Pepper toward marriage.
She is spunky and no-nonsense, dealing with clients that others would be avoiding. This time, her help is sought by famed G-man Eliot Ness. He has an unusual problem: his ashes are interred in a memorial site. But he isn’t happy, because he says most of those ashes aren’t his. It seems a collector sought the remains of the famed G-man for their shelf of memorabilia.
Ness wants Pepper to retrieve his stolen ashes–something he proposes will be an easy assignment. Pepper reluctantly agrees to help Ness after he leaves her with little choice.
But of course, it isn’t so easy. Things get more complicated when the ghost of the infamous Al Capone is added to the situation. Pepper discovers that bad guys don’t stop being bad just because they are ghosts, and that these spirits can use dangerous means to achieve their ends. Pepper finds that not only she, but also people she loves, can be put in jeopardy as she pursues her unique profession.
The Heretic’s Creed
Ursula Blanchard, half-sister to Queen Elizabeth I, and a respectable widow who has established a comfortable life, is happy with her lot as she sets out to enjoy the happy wedding and marriage breakfast. Life is good. But a distinguished guest at the festivities, Lord Burghley, Sir William Cecil, congratulates Ursula on the happy day but follows those remarks with a request for Ursula’s help.
The request is simply that Ursula undertakes an errand for Cecil. As Ursula is planning to visit Edinburgh for the birth and christening of her good friend Mistress Jester’s first grandchild, Cecil asks Ursula to make a short side trip to deliver a letter from the Queen’s court to Holyrood Palace. Cecil assures Ursula it is a task that is confidential, but not dangerous. Sounds simple enough, but as Cecil continues his explanation, it becomes clear that two Queen’s messengers, including Ursula’s good friend, Christopher Spelton, were already give the directive to deliver the letter. Both have gone missing, with the letter undelivered. So, hearing that, Ursula has misgivings, but being conscious of her duty, agrees to do it. But then Cecil adds, “there is one more thing.”
Ursula’s heart sinks at that, but Cecil again assures her there is nothing at all secret about this second assignment; rather it is just a simple commission. It seems Ursula is to go to a community of women known as Stonemoor, to retrieve a copy of a rare book desired by the Queen’s magician, Dr. Dee. The community is remarkable because it appears the women are practicing Catholics, despite Henry XIII’s changing the country’s religion from Catholic to Church of England. For complicated reasons, the women of Stonemoor are allowed to go their quiet way in their chosen religious pursuits. The Stonemoor women have agreed to sell this rare book, considered to be heretical because of its views on astronomy and related subjects.
So in the end Ursula agrees to both tasks: delivery of the letter and retrieval of the Stonemoor book. Oh, and if, by the way, she should chance on any information regarding the fate of the two missing Queen’s messengers, she will be asked to impart her findings.
Well, as you might imagine, these tasks prove to be neither simple nor easy. Ursula and her group will be hard pressed to achieve success and return safely.
This is a riveting story, full of historical detail and richly imagined atmosphere. It makes for a most enjoyable read.
A Rustle of Silk
This is a story of a physician, Dr. Gabriel Taverner, set in England in the early 17th century. James I is about to ascend to the English throne; times are still precarious in the areas of politics and religion.
Gabriel started out sharpening steel tools, moved from that to ship’s surgeon, and now intends to make his way on shore as a physician to residents of the Devon countryside.
The story is richly descriptive and sets the scene of the times wonderfully well. The story is intriguing and for Gabriel, increasingly dangerous, to him and to those close to him.
The author spins a story replete with images of the rich silk offered by the finest merchants of the day, including his sister’s husband. Celia appears to lead a life of luxury and ease, but thread-by-thread the fabric of her life is tangled. The images met by Celia and Gabriel are not for the faint of heart or sensitive of spirit. For me, those images were so grotesque that it interfered with the enjoyment of the story. Still, this is an admirable piece of work.
For all three books, my thanks to author, publisher and NetGalley for providing an advance copy for me to read and review.