The co-authors mix the paranormal – ghosts - with the real in a history-lite mystery that asks the reader for some concessions of imagination from the start. Anza O’Malley is a bookbinder who has been having conversations with ghosts for years, even doing some work assisting police departments across the country in solving difficult crimes. Now her expertise with the paranormal has been requested by an old school friend.
A recently donated book from a private collection may be a great find, an illuminated translation by Irish monks in the 12th century, The Book of Kildare. But before the manuscript can be authenticated, or even cataloged, the book disappears from its new home at the Boston Athenaeum, one of the oldest private lending libraries in America.
Anza isn’t needed for her bookbinding skills but to initiate conversations with two 12th-century ghosts, monks who still linger, anxious about the fate of the book they helped create. And if the monks aren’t enough, Anza adds a good deed for an old butler who worked for the family that donated the illuminated text to the Athenaeum, also a ghost.
Juggling the supernatural with an active young son and his father, who is married to another woman, Anza has plenty to keep her busy and the reader more than enough oddities to assimilate. Luckily, the boy’s father is a detective willing to do the physical investigation while Anza concentrates on the paranormal. Whoever has taken the manuscript is not a ghost.
It becomes Anza’s mission to return the book to its rightful place, unearthing a network of art thieves and a very exclusive clientele. If you’re willing to accept a little paranormal in a mystery, this protagonist combines both, settling some ghostly scores along the way.
Whenever a work of fiction is coauthored, I always question the viability of an integrated plot and the need for a singular voice. One of the authors, Mary Ann Winkowski, has worked with police to solve cases, but that isn’t really a problem in this book.
I found the mixture of mystery and domestic scenes somewhat jarring, Anza either working on the missing manuscript - and having heated discussions with her ghosts - or embroiled in some domestic activity unrelated to the case. With or without the use of ghosts as characters and a plot that blends two worlds, I’m not sure this is a successful combination.