When Penelope "Pen" Thornton-McClure's husband committed suicide, instead of scooping up money from her wealthy, affluent in-laws, and remaining trapped in an unhappy family life, she swept her eleven-year-old depressed son off to her hometown of Cranberry, Rhode Island. Enlisting the assistance of her deceased husband's life insurance check, she went into business with her Aunt Sadie via Buy the Book. The one thing Pen never imagined was the presence of Jack Shepard, PI. A ghost who bit the dust back in 1949, and has been haunting the location ever since. He may have seemed like a nuisance at first, but with all of the dead bodies that seem to pop up around Cranberry, Pen has come to the realization that it's better to have the deceased PI on her side, helping to solve the local mysteries springing up at every turn. Like the one that began in 1948.
The Movie Town Theater has finally opened its doors to the public, and has people from all walks of life flooding into Cranberry to be present at the first ever Film Noir Festival. But movies aren't the only thing people are vying to see. Much of their interest lies within the special guests who are appearing for the big event; including legendary screen actress, Hedda Geist. With Pen's pal Brainert doing what he can to keep things in order at the theater, Pen and Aunt Sadie have been left in charge of handling the countless book discussions that will be held at Buy the Book over the busy weekend. But busy isn't necessarily the word to describe the big event. Deadly is more like it. Hedda has been a virtual recluse for decades, and the moment she makes her first appearance, she nearly loses her life. But Hedda isn't the only target. Over the course of mere hours and days, other Festival guests begin to turn up dead. Pen knows that something no good is at work, but the local Cranberry police are too dimwitted to realize that a sinister force has befallen the quaint little town. Pen, however, along with Jack Shepard, and her fellow Cranberry amateur sleuths, resolve to figure it out, before someone else loses their life. And with Jack's keen knowledge of Hedda's life over forty years ago, Pen knows that she has the tools to crack the case. That is, if the killer doesn't crack her first.
Believe it or not, I have not read the first three books in the HAUNTED BOOKSHOP mystery series. In fact, up until a few weeks ago, I didn't even know that this series existed. I am, however, a diehard fan of the COFFEEHOUSE MYSTERIES, penned by Cleo Coyle, and have been since day one. Therefore, I couldn't resist diving into THE GHOST AND THE FEMME FATALE the moment it reached my hands. All I can say is, now that I have, I will never be able to turn back. At this point, it's obvious that I absolutely must read the rest of the books, as I have fallen head-over-heels with the characters, setting, and nostalgia that is so prevalent within the pages of THE GHOST AND THE FEMME FATALE. And, let's face it, when a reader is able to feel so passionately about a series, even after entering at the fourth book, you know that the author is absolutely amazing, and certainly doing their job.
Penelope is an irresistible character. She's spunky, fiery, intelligent, and a heroine you can't get enough of. Jack, her ghostly PI, on the other hand, is humorous, and a character you can't help but swoon over. The banter shared between the two of them is unstoppable, and the way that they appear to communicate telepathically with one another adds a little paranormal phenomena to the story. The flashbacks to New York City in 1948 are so retro, vintage, and nostalgia filled, and really provide a gritty view of old-time New York City. While the present-day happenings in Cranberry are so charming, quaint, and, I'll admit it, deadly. Cranberry's residents are all so colorful and vibrant, embodying contrasting personalities and quirks that you can't help but adore; and the way that all of the Cranberry residents support one another, no matter what, just makes the reader want to move there themselves. As is typical of Cleo Coyle (in this case, Alice Kimberly), she has truly outdone herself. The HAUNTED BOOKSHOP mysteries are a must-read. Your home library is bare without this series.