This book was was an impulse buy, and I totally thought that it would just be something that I’d read and move on from. You know—the kind of book that your Fifth Grade ELA teacher would call “Brain Candy.” But The Ghost and the Bogus Bookseller really surprised me. It’s about a crime-fighting duo—a quirky, meddling widow who runs a bookstore and the ghost of a 1940’s era detective who haunts the bookstore. The plot revolves around a best-selling novel that sounds a lot like Fifty Shades of Grey. Several grisly murders occur, and they all are in connection to the novel. This is the first time that I’ve ever heard a racy novel be referred to as a “potboiler,” but I’m definitely down to start adopting the term, adding it to my list of other favorite elderly person terms, adding it to “Putting my face on,” and “Watching my stories.”
The plot here is a nifty little puzzle, salted with flashbacks from Jack’s life in the 1940’s, where Pen goes with him while she’s asleep. Their relationship is often a source of comedic levity, with Jack giving his running commentary inside of Pen’s mind. At the same time, it’s also kind of poignant. If Jack was a living man, you know that they would be together. But they can’t, so they solve the crimes that the police force in Quindicott are too grumpy to.
Jack is, at some points, a bit of a caricature of a 1940’s detective. This is a sin that is ultimately forgivable—we can allow a ghost to be a complete product of his time. Penelope is well-crafted. She meddles, but she means well. She oversteps, but she has good reasons for doing so. And she tells Jack off whenever he and his time period exhibit toxic masculinity. I found myself agreeing with and cheering her on several times.
It’s set in the place that I would love to live, but can’t seem to find. I don’t know. Are kitschy little New England towns like Quindicott, Rhode Island real? Do they really have a coterie of small business owners who call themselves Quibblers? Do they have bakeries which sell amazing cinnamon rolls and used bookstores? Or are they a delightful little myth? If one exists, please let me know, and I will pack my bags and be on my way POSTHASTE.
You can start with this one, like I did, or you can start with the first book in this six book series, The Ghost and Mrs. McClure.
Picture Credit: @svalenas