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Haunting Investigation (The chesterton holte mysteries) Hardcover – December 31, 2015
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"Haunting Investigation, set in the late 1920s in the city of Philadelphia, is a novel that displays Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's characteristic historical accuracy and attention to detail. Here, she combines the mystery and ghost story genres to tell a suspenseful tale of murder with an engaging heroine and a well-drawn cast of characters. This diverting and involving story will leave readers both satisfied and hungering for more stories featuring Poppy Thornton and Chesterton Holte."
Pamela Sargent; award winning author, Earthseed and The Shore of Women
“If you want to read one of the best mystery writers alive...if you want to have a few delightful hours of compulsive reading, then I suggest you read this haunting Chesterton Holte mystery by the World Fantasy Award Grandmaster Chelsea Quinn Yarbro. Dammit, she's that good!” (JACK DANN award winning author, The Memory Cathedral 2015-11-19)
"Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's work has haunted me all my life, and Haunting Investigation shows why. CQY is a master of the imagination and the queen of storytelling. I can't wait for her next book!" (Nancy Holder -NYT Bestselling Author, Crimson Peak: The Official Movie Novelization 2015-11-19)
“When I read a book set in a historical period, I hope for two things: an accurate setting, and characters that belong in it. When I read a mystery or a thriller, I have expectations that the characters will be ones I understand and whose fate I care about, coupled with a good puzzle whose solution I didn't see coming and strong action. When I read a fantasy, I want continuity regarding the 'magic system,' in that the rules that the writer set out early in the book are never violated, no matter where the plot goes or how complicated it became. I know, based upon many enjoyable years of reading the work of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, that I am going to find all of the above in the pages of Haunting Investigation.
Poppy Thornton is a bright young career woman, not content to become, as her friends have, merely the ornament of a man's home. She wants to become a crime reporter. The action takes place in 1920s Philadelphia, not very long post-WWI. Poppy belongs to the upper class, but is not snobbish toward the rest of society. The secondary characters are also complex: Poppy's protective but gruff editor, Lowenstein; her Aunt Jo, rigid as to the mores of her class but unable to resist indulging her very spoiled son; Eustace (Stacy), the spoiled son in question; and the decent, hardworking and inevitably smitten Inspector Loring. She's daring but not reckless.
Chesterton Holte, the eponymous protagonist of the book – series, I hope – is the ghost of a brave and determined investigator who now needs to expiate the sins of his past. He's not soft; no successful spy could be. (We get only a small portion of his history. I hope more will be revealed in subsequent volumes.) He uses his supernatural talents and connections to help Poppy investigate a string of mysterious murders that may or may not be connected.
The fantastic portions of the story were well handled. Ghosts make as unreliable eye witnesses as living beings do. Holte annoys Poppy's cat and dog by his emanations, which also affect electrical systems. I was glad to see that Poppy only gradually came to accept his existence, then rely upon him. The story moves along at a good clip, although allowing the reader to revel in and enjoy all the details of its setting and the wit of its narrator. Haunting Investigation is a good read. It might be a little cozy for those who enjoy Kevin J. Anderson's Dan Shamble, Zombie PI series, but readers of Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity series will certainly enjoy it.”(Galaxy's Edge Magazine 2015-11-19)
In Yarbro's (Sustenance: A Saint-Germain Novel, 2014, etc.) mystery/thriller, a journalist in 1924 investigates a possible murder with help from the ghost who's haunting her. With the death of accountant Madison Moncrief, Philadelphia Clarion reporter Poppy Thornton may have found her way from the society page to the front page. Sure, it looks like Madison hanged himself, but Poppy knows it was murder because Chesterton Holte, the ghost of a man who died eight years ago, told her. Poppy's investigation leads to her connecting two additional murders: the alleged suicide of James Poindexter, who worked at the same firm as Moncrief, and the irrefutable homicide of antiques dealer Percy Knott. But when Poppy gets too close to the truth, she may need more than just a helping hand from Holte. There's not much mystery in Yarbro's novel; Poppy uncovers some shadiness among potential suspects but doesn't make much headway, and Holte learns little from the ghosts of the murder vics, who can't even remember their killer(s). Yarbro, however, delivers two intriguing lead characters. Holte, for one, has chosen to haunt Poppy because he blames himself for her father's murder, which happened mere hours before Holte's own during the Great War (about which the narrative doesn't offer too many details). Holte is largely a traditional ghost―“semi-visible” in front of Poppy and prone to flickering lights―who often inadvertently scares the journalist with his sudden appearances. Poppy, for her part, is delightfully curious (befitting her profession of choice) yet hilariously oblivious to Inspector Loring's blatant flirting, even if Holte is quick to point it out. Nevertheless, Yarbro's greatest triumph is the old-school prose. Her novel reads as if it were genuinely authored in the 1920s: “ 'phone” is repeatedly written as such, as it would be if the shorthand were still around, and Poppy's go-to exclamation is “Ye gods!” The final act is decidedly more intense―Poppy may become someone's target―but the ending unfortunately lacks resolution, so readers hoping for a nice wrap-up to the mystery will likely be disappointed. Engaging characters, one already dead, highlight this loving tribute to the classic detective story.(KIRKUS BOOK REVIEW 2015-11-19)
Set in 1924, this first in a paranormal mystery series from old pro Yarbro (best known for the Saint Germain historical vampire novels) is an agreeable and inventive yarn. Poppy Thornton, a young socialite, is trying desperately to break into crime reporting for the Philadelphia Clarion when she's approached by the titular Holte, the helpful ghost of a spy executed with Poppy's father during WWI. The murder of an upper-crust acquaintance of Poppy gives Poppy her chance. The death appears connected to other crimes committed at a level of society that the working-class police and reporters have difficulty exploring. As Poppy cleverly exploits her social connections, Holte interviews the spirits of several murder victims, hindered by the fact that ghosts tend to be forgetful. It's all good fun until the action breaks off abruptly at the end. Of course, a series may have continuing themes, but this book leaves far too many plot threads dangling.(Publishers Weekly 2015-11-20)
In 1916 France, two men are executed by the Germans. It is now 1924, and the ghost of Chesterton Holte haunts P.M. Thornton. Holte is there to assuage his guilt over the death of Thornton’s father in 1916, who was killed with Holte over a misunderstanding. P.M. is Poppea Millicent Thornton who is determined to become an ace crime reporter, like her father, for the Philadelphia Clarion. Poppy has spent too much time covering ladies’ book clubs and flower shows; she is ready for the big time. VERDICT Better known for her historical vampire series featuring le Comte de Saint-Germain, Yarbro launches a new paranormal series that offers a richly detailed look at life for women as the Roaring Twenties takes off. Poppy is a strong character who desperately wants to honor her father and not succumb to her aunt’s blandishments to marry and raise a family. A solid choice for fans of Alice Kimberly’s "Haunted Bookshop" mysteries or Nancy Atherton’s "Aunt Dimity" novels.(Library Journal 2015-12-28)
About the Author
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro has published over ninety novels and nonfiction works and more than seventy pieces of short fiction. She’s known for her bestselling series of historical horror novels featuring the 4000 year-old vampire Count Saint-Germain.She’s been awarded a literary knighthood by the Transylvanian Society of Dracula, a Grand Master award by the World Horror Association, was the first woman enrolled as a Living Legend by the International Horror Guild, and has received two Lifetime Achievement Awards― from the Horror Writers Association and from the World Fantasy Association in 2014.Yarbro lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with the Gang of Two (her irrepressible cats Butterscotch and Crumpet).
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When her editor finally gives her a chance, it is to investigate the likely suicide of one of her cousin Eustace's friends. Montcrief supposedly hung himself from an antique chandelier in his own dining room. The coroner has discovered that he was poisoned before his death which makes suicide unlikely. It isn't long before there are more deaths.
Poppy is assisted in her investigation by Chesterton Holte. Holte was a spy during the Great War who was present when Poppy's father was executed as a spy. Holte, the actual spy, was killed a little bit later. He has returned as a ghost to haunt Poppy to make up for his part in her father's death. Despite being a practical, college-educated young woman, it really doesn't take Poppy long to believe that Holte is real. And, while he can spy out various information for her, she is the only one who can see and hear him. He also has the disadvantage of not being able to interact with the physical world beyond making the lights flicker and phone lines crackle.
This story was a great introduction to the characters and the setting. It was easy to see the advantages and disadvantages of Poppy's situation as a young woman who wants to do something real at a time when most women of her class are content to be sheltered. Her contrast with her best friend who is happily married and the mother of twins is quite noticeable.
I liked the investigation that Poppy did which gave a look into the lifestyles of the social elite. I liked her budding relationship with Inspector Loring who is the police officer in charge of the murder case.
However, this isn't a finished story. It is a great build-up to a mystery but, at the end, we don't know who the murderer is or why the murders happened. Since the publication information indicates that this is the first Chesterton Holte mystery, we can hope that the second WHICH ACTUALLY SOLVES THE CRIME isn't too long delayed!
Even though the two animals in the book play minor parts(they are the only ones other than our heroine who can see the ghost), I wanted to write the review.
It's an interesting idea to have a WWI spy who is a ghost as the hero. He was killed by the Germans but not before he got an innocent man killed as well. The man was a journalist and Chesterton Holte, said ghost, returns to the land of the living to help the man's daughter.
Poppy is a thoroughly modern woman who would rather chase a good story than sit around the drawing rooms that proper Society ladies inhabit. She is given the chance to prove her mettle by her editor, who is ahead of his time and thinks women capable indeed.
Her first crime story involves people of her acquaintance, upper crusters like herself. Both her boss and the police detective in charge of the investigation want to tap into her knowledge of a world of which they know nothing..
Little do they realize but the unnamed source that helps her with her investigation is none other than Holte. He's not able to help physically, being incorporeal, but he proves to be loyal ally.
It's easy to imagine the early 1920's setting- the dialogue and details ring true. The characters are good despite being a trifle formulaic. But what makes it an enjoyable read are the two leads- Poppy and Holte. Clearly they are in for more adventures since the plot is left hanging. I look forward to reading more of their exploits. They are a happy addition to the annals of cozy partners.
Five purrs and two paws up.