15808471Reviewed by A.D. Cole

It’s 1924 when Jillian Leigh’s uncle is found dead at the foot of some cliffs near an ocean side town in England. Since her academically renowned parents are busy in Paris, it falls on her to take time off from her Oxford education to put her uncle’s affairs in order. But when she gets to Rothewell, she is confronted with the possibility that her uncle’s death is more than a mere accident. In An Inquiry Into Love and Death, Simone St. James offers a story filled with ghosts, romance, and post-war intrigue.

Jillian has always known about her Uncle Toby’s shameful profession–ghost hunting. And though she suspects his death is related to his job, she is nonetheless surprised by what she finds. When dashing Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken arrives on the scene, her suspicion of murder is confirmed. But it might be more than ghosts that got Toby killed. And Jillian soon finds that her own personal history is not what she’s always believed it to be.

This was a different reading experience for me and I’m unsure of how to describe it. The author sets the right mood. It’s gray and cold and mysterious in Rothewell. There are questions that arise early in the story. Why are the police interested in Toby’s murder when it’s been ruled an accident? Who is Elizabeth and why does Jillian look so much like her? How did Toby’s search for the ghost, Walking John, motivate someone to want to kill him? But the story lacks a sense of urgency, a ticking clock. So that at times you’re wondering if your questions are going to be answered at all. They do get answered, and in fairly satisfying ways. It’s just that I found myself with several moments of doubt as to whether the story was going to fulfill its promises.

In the end, all of the story threads are wrapped up. But the plot unravels slowly. The main character’s naiveté is occasionally frustrating. And the romantic sub-plot gets off to a rocky start–initially it seems overly contrived and forced. Yet, then there are moments, especially in high-action scenes, when I found myself completely absorbed and unable to stop reading.

My favorite thing about this story is the setting. The author did a fantastic job in building it. The physical descriptions of the characters as well as the tension and false calm that existed in that stretch of time between the two great wars, are all authentically portrayed.

So I’m chalking this one up to personal preference. If you’re looking for something to sink your teeth into or that will scare the socks off of you, this probably isn’t it. But I think if you’re in a position to relax and just hang along for the ride, you’ll enjoy this ghost story. It isn’t super scary and the twists aren’t very complicated–are possibly even predictable, in some cases. I enjoyed it for what it was.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

A.D. Cole is a homeschooling mother and aspiring romance novelist. She lives in the Ozark foothills and spends her free time reading, writing, baking and pondering life’s little mysteries.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by NAL Trade. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.