An Inquiry into Love and Death

Written by Simone St. James
Review by Elizabeth Knowles

Some years after World War I, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must leave her intensive studies and go to the seacoast village of Rothewell to identify her dead uncle and pack up his personal effects. Uncle Toby had been a ghost hunter, and there is no doubt that terrifying events in Rothewell called for his services. The reader will wonder why Jillian does not simply retreat from such a frightening, clearly supernatural threat, but her reason is soon revealed. Uncle Toby was murdered, and Jillian feels that as a family member she is honor-bound to help Scotland Yard’s Inspector Andrew Merriken discover the particulars. An old, unquiet ghost is not the only danger facing Jillian and a cast of intriguing village characters. Suspense builds as another, more modern peril looms. Jillian goes through harrowing experiences as she tries to sort out the circumstances of Uncle Toby’s death and the truth about who she really is. A love story winds its way through the plot which, in its own way, imperils Jillian as much as the ghost and the criminals.

This story is a keeper. There is some uneven pacing at first, with slow spots that impede the tension rather than build it, but this is a minor quibble. Anyone who loves Daphne du Maurier and Victoria Holt will enjoy this book. Readers will cheer for a brave, intelligent heroine fighting overwhelming odds to defeat evil, help people both dead and alive, and find her own happiness at the end.

This second novel by the author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare is highly recommended, but don’t read it alone at night.