Title: The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes
Publisher: Macmillian/St. Martin’s Press
Imprint: Minotaur Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B+
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
Mousy, timid, and shy to the point of agoraphobic, Em Moore is the writing half of a celebrity biography team. Her charismatic partner, Teddy, does the interviewing, the negotiating, the public schmoozing. But Em’s dependence on Teddy runs deeper than just the job—Teddy is her bridge to the world and the only source of love in her life. So when Teddy dies in a car accident, Em is devastated, alone in a world she doesn’t understand. The only way she can honor his memory and cope with his loss is to finish the interviews for their current book—an “autobiography” of renowned and reclusive film director Garrett Malcolm.
Ensconced in a small cottage near Malcolm’s Cape Cod home, Em slowly builds the courage and strength to interview Malcolm the way Teddy would have. She finds Malcolm at once friendlier, more intimidating, and far sexier than she had imagined. But Em soon senses trouble between Malcolm and one of his former stars, the washed-up Brooklyn Pierce, and she hears whispers of skeletons in the Malcolm family closet. And then the police begin looking into the accident that killed Teddy, and Em’s control on her life—tenuous at best—is threatened.
In this stunning breakout novel from the beloved author of the Carlotta Carlyle mystery series, Linda Barnes slowly winds the strings tighter and tighter, leading the reader ever more deeply into the complex lives of her characters with pitch-perfect pacing and mesmerizing prose.
I love it when an author decides to stretch their writing wings and deviate from their typical writing style. This is exactly what mystery writer Linda Barnes does in her latest release, The Perfect Ghost. This is not a straight forward investigation with the intrepid sleuth uncovering clues to unmask a killer. The circumstances surrounding Teddy’s death are ambiguous and it is unclear that a crime has even been committed. The mystery element is obscure for much of the novel but as the investigation deepens, new information emerges and begins to raise suspicions about whether or not Teddy’s death was indeed an accident.
Em Moore is a fascinating and flawed protagonist. She comes across as shy and timid, yet Em is quite assertive in her various interactions. Her relationship with Teddy is quite complex and it takes much of the novel to understand the full scope of their involvement.
For the most part, The Perfect Ghost is told in first person from Em’s perspective. The writing style is quite unique and takes some getting used to since Em’s inner dialogue is presented as conversation directed towards Teddy, her deceased writing partner. Interspersed throughout the story are e-mails from the detective investigating Teddy’s death and transcripts of Teddy’s tape recorded interviews with various people for their upcoming autobiography of Garrett Malcolm. These e-mails and interviews provide valuable clues and insights about Teddy’s death and the various characters.
With The Perfect Ghost, Linda Barnes delivers a flawless mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns. The characters are meticulously detailed and full of hidden depths. The clues are subtle and even in retrospect, the jaw dropping and stunning conclusion is impossible to predict.
An absolutely captivating novel that mystery enthusiasts are sure to enjoy.