To be honest, I've never been big on paranormal phenomena. Vampires are creepy, werewolves are hairy, and demons are scary, not to mention scaly, and as a mystery writer, I tend to think that evil is wrong, anyway.
I do, however, have a fondness for ghosts. Not because I've ever seen one personally. I haven't. I keep hoping that maybe one of these days I will - we vacation in St. Augustine, Florida, every year, and there's a restaurant there with a haunted ladies room (swear to God!) which I make it a point to visit - but so far, no dice.
But I do love a good ghost story. I even wrote one myself once. It was the second DIY book, called Spackled and Spooked. It concerned a supposedly haunted mid-century ranch where murder had been committed seventeen years previously, and a skeleton buried in the crawlspace, among other cool things.
One of my favorite ghost stories was released 43 years ago, back when I was but a gleam in my mother’s eye, practically speaking. Barbara Mertz, writing as Barbara Michaels, wrote Ammie, Come Home in 1968, and it has one of the most chilling examples of ghostly possession ever penned. Like all of Mertz/Michaels/Elizabeth Peters’s books, it’s also marvelously written, quite funny at times, and with a very satisfying love story or two.
Since we’re on the subject of Mertz/Michaels/Peters, she also wrote Devil May Care, and House of Many Shadows, and Witch, and The Crying Child, and a slew of others, all of which handle ghosts and spirits in various incarnations, and all of which are stellar.
More recently—like last year—Jennifer Crusie’s latest, Maybe This Time, arrived in stores. She’s an autobuy for me, and you can imagine my excitement when I not only found the expected humor and fantabulous love story, but also ghosts and—yes—even an instance or two of possession.
Not that I have a particular thing for possession, you understand, but ghostly possession can be a lot of fun. To read about, I mean; like the ghost-sightings, I’m not so sure I’d like it if it happened to me.
And then there’s Lillian Stewart Carl, whose every protagonist generally deals with ‘ghost allergies.’ You can’t really go wrong with a Lillian Stewart Carl—she’s been compared to both Barbara Michaels and the brilliant Mary Stewart—but if I had to mention one book in particular, it would have to be Shadows in Scarlet, a paranormal romantic suspense romp in which Amanda, a tour guide at a historic home in Virginia, falls in love with the ghost of James Grant and ends up taking his spirit to his home castle in Scotland. I won’t go into details of the story, but it’s great, and even includes—for those of you who get off on that kind of thing—a ghost/human sex scene. There may be more of those out there, but this was the first I’d read, and quite well done, I might add. (And in case you wonder about the feasibility, as does a certain character in the book, to quote Amanda, who ought to know, “he had plenty of substance.”)
Icould keep going, but I won’t. Instead, why don’t you leave a comment to tell me about your favorite ghost book, and help me add to the TBR pile.
Jennie Bentley is the New York Times bestselling author of the Do It Yourself home renovation mysteries from Berkley Prime Crime, as well as the Cutthroat Business mysteries, written as Jenna Bennett. You can find out more about both of them at www.JennieBentley.com