An Unquiet Ghost
An Unquiet Ghost can be described as a light amateur detective story in the cozy crime genre. This is the third book in Linda Stratmann’s Mina Scarletti Mystery series set in the English seaside town of Brighton in the 1870s. Stratmann’s previous work includes non-fiction forensic chemistry, true crime, and a fiction series featuring a lady sleuth, based in Bayswater in the 1880s.
The main character is 25-year old, Mina Scarletti, a 4-foot 8-inch semi-invalid who writes sensational horror stories under a male pseudonym. She occasionally publishes children’s stories to prevent her family from getting suspicious. Mina has developed a reputation (over the first two books) for unmasking fraudulent spiritualists. She is surprised when a young betrothed couple begs her to help them find a genuine psychic so they can communicate with a murdered uncle. Second cousins, they want to know if any murderous tendencies exist in their family, before committing to marriage and offspring. Despite her cynicism about spiritualists, she agrees to help them, fuelled by compassion and intrigued by the 20-year, unsolved poisoning case.
Along the way she recruits some unlikely helpers to investigate; the local doctor, her charming, but idle, brother and a retired magician’s assistant. Together they unearth layers of deception and intrigue, but is any of it relevant to the old murder case?
Whilst part of a series, An Unquiet Ghost can be read as a stand-alone novel. I hadn’t read the first two books in the series but was able to quickly follow what was going on. I found some of the passages about spiritualism a bit lengthy, but it didn’t detract from my overall enjoyment of the characters and plot. Stratmann has created a memorable protagonist in the physically frail, but mentally sharp, Mina. If you enjoy Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple stories, then Mina Scarletti will almost certainly become a new favorite.