My rating: 3 of 5 stars
When Oxford student Jillian Leigh receives news that her uncle has been found dead at the bottom of a cliff in Rothewell, she drives down to the coast to identify his body and set his affairs in order. After a series of sinister events not to mention a visit from Scotland Yard, Jillian comes to believe that her uncle’s death may not have been an accident and that a malevolent ghost may have had a hand in it…
St. James’s debut novel, The Haunting of Maddy Clare is an atmospheric and gripping tale of murder, vengeance and reaffirmation of life and love. Unfortunately, her second book, An Inquiry into Love and Death does not quite succeed in living up to its potential, and is an uneven mix of weak historical mystery with ineffectual paranormal elements and a unsatisfying minor romance.
The mystery starts out well enough with a suspicious death, but rapidly deteriorates into a mish-mash of illogical clues that send the intrepid amateur “sleuthette” on a circuitous route until she inevitably stumbles across the truth. The villain is predictable and the motive mundane and uninteresting.
The ghostly manifestations feel contrived rather than spooky and are virtually unrelated to the mystery. Consequently, they contribute little to the tension or suspense.
The romance between the sheltered and naïve Jillian and the handsome and more worldly detective, Drew Merriken feels forced as their attraction is inexplicable and their chemistry non-existent.
All in all, a disappointing follow-up, but St. James’s writing style is decent enough to read another. On a final note, Rosalyn Landor’s narration is immersive and manages to somewhat compensate for the ineffectual storyline.
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