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An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James


Without much deliberation, I picked this book out of the blue and was surprisingly rewarded with everything that appealed to me, temperamental ghost notwithstanding; 1920s, the English coast, an admirable heroine, an old haunted cottage, a dash of history and romance. Simone St. James's An Inquiry into Love and Death hits right with its gripping mystery and has become one of my favorites.

Set in 1920s England, Jillian Leigh drives to the seaside town of Rothewell to pack the belongings of her uncle, a ghost hunter, who died by the cliffs. Upon her arrival, unsettling incidents started happening which she was convinced must be related to the ghost her uncle is after, an angry spirit who haunts Blood Moon Bay where no locals go at night.

More puzzling still is the appearance of a Scotland Yard inspector whose interest in her uncle's death raised questions of whether the incident was really accidental or was it really not.

It's my first time reading St. James and I thought these Canadian writers sure could pull off a bit of du Maurier flavor. Susanna Kearsley comes to mind though she is quite more flowery in her prose (think tea house atmosphere) whereas St. James is rather more windswept. It matches the darker mood of the story and the rugged Devonshire landscape with its blustery atmosphere. Entwined with the beginnings of a romance, I lost some goodly hours being engrossed.

Jillian, perhaps, is an unconventional figure of her period. She's a student of Oxford (at a time when going there as a woman is thought as a modern thing), drives her own motorcar and stays alone on a cottage by the woods with no chaperone. She's also a level-headed heroine, easily admired and, this being a ghost story, quite a relief for she's not too likely to fall under expressions where you want to roll your eyes in frustration or scream at her to NOT go out there.

Chilling moments here and there gripped me with a note of intended fright that I actually covered the page to suspend myself. Its course of actions and scenes felt quite natural though some aspects I have already predicted way before a certain mystery was revealed. Still there's enough surprise to make the story afloat. St James will be another writer I'll look forward to read and a great addition to a number of Canadian authors on my fave list.

Summary

After her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must rive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents - a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own - escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house and is haunting the woods around Blood Moon Bay. If Toby discovered something sinister during his investigations, was his death no accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken leaves Jillian with more questions than answers - and with the added complication of a powerful mutual attraction. She suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth and begins to discover secrets that lie deep within Rothewell... and at the very heart of who she is.

Title: An Inquiry Into Love and Death
Author: Simone St. James
Genre: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Romance
Published: March 2013
Publisher: NAL
Rating: ♨♨♨♨ (4 cups - A gripping light mystery set on an English blustery coast with ghosts, romance and beautiful landscape.)


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