Pepper Martin has a respectable job at the historic Garden View Cemetery that supports her closetful of designer clothes—a collection any fashionista would envy. Through no fault of her own, she also does a little sleuthing on the side, albeit not of the ordinary Miss Marple variety. Pepper’s clients are mostly dead people who turn to her for help because of her rare ability to communicate with ghosts.
Any day that begins with Pepper being forced to ride a bus to work is guaranteed to go sideways, even without the appearance of 16-year-old Lucy. It was 1966 when Lucy experienced the greatest moment of her short life: in the middle of a Beatles concert, Lucy rushed the stage and actually kissed Paul McCartney. Basking in the glow of her Moment, Lucy said goodbye to her friends and was never seen again – until Pepper meets her on the bus.
Now, some would argue that spending eternity with her last earthly memory being kissing Paul is as close to Heaven as a girl could get, but Lucy’s restless spirit needs one more thing: she simply wants her body to be found and given a decent burial. For all Pepper’s grumbling about the intrusion of the dead into her busy life, she can’t help but agree that Lucy deserves at least that much.
In order to figure out where the body might be, Pepper needs clues. Who killed Lucy? And why? Once she learns that her boss and dear friend Ella was one of those concert-going friends who last saw Lucy alive, the tale of teenage alliances and animosities sets Pepper on a chase for justice that is bound to put her right in the path of danger.
Casey Daniels does a bang-up job of depicting the multiple characters in this charming and somewhat nostalgic mystery. Drawing on the memories of Ella, Lucy, and their little band of Seventies flower children, she juxtaposes the young people they were with the adults they have become, then neatly interweaves their stories to bring readers a tightly woven tale of supernatural adventures.
A Hard Day's Fright manages to avoid what has become a trite cultural mainstay, keeping well away from any emulation of popular television programs about people who see dead people. Pepper’s bright and sometimes cynical attitude never overshadows her compassion but keeps the narrative bouncing along at a crisp pace. The characters are sharply defined and fully believable, and the eventual solution to this clever riddle will surprise readers even as they recognize that well-placed clues make it inevitable. Here’s a perfectly crafted and highly entertaining read that leaves us begging for the next installment in the Pepper Martin series.