“Part cozy and part hard-boiled detective novel with traces of the supernatural, The Ghost and Mrs. McClure is just a lot of fun.”—The Mystery Reader
Young widow Penelope Thornton-McClure and her old Aunt Sadie are making ends meet by managing a mystery book shop—a quaint Rhode Island landmark rumored to be haunted. Pen may not believe in ghosts, but she does believe in good publicity—like nabbing Timothy Brennan for a book signing. But soon after the bestselling thriller writer reveals a secret about the store’s link to a 1940s murder, he keels over dead—and right in the middle of the store’s new Community Events space.
Who gives Mrs. McClure the first clue that it was murder? The bookstore’s full-time ghost—a PI murdered on the very spot more than fifty years ago. Is he a figment of Pen’s overactive imagination? Or is the oddly likable fedora-wearing specter the only hope Pen has to solve the crime? You can bet your everlasting life on it...
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Table of Contents
CHAPTER 1 - The Big Ending
CHAPTER 2 - The Author Arrives
CHAPTER 3 - A Postmortem Post
CHAPTER 4 - A Drink before Dying
CHAPTER 5 - Hard-Boiled Bogey Man
CHAPTER 6 - The Morning After
CHAPTER 7 - Crime Scene
CHAPTER 8 - Curious Jack
CHAPTER 9 - Dying for Profit
CHAPTER 10 - Inquiring Minds
CHAPTER 11 - Shadow Boxing
CHAPTER 12 - Dark and Stormy Night
CHAPTER 13 - Don’t Know Jack
CHAPTER 14 - Strangers in the Night
CHAPTER 15 - An Open Book
CHAPTER 16 - Revelations
CHAPTER 17 - A Worthy Suspect
CHAPTER 18 - To Quibble or Not to Quibble
CHAPTER 19 - Things That Get Bumped in the Night
CHAPTER 20 - The Girl in the Frame-Up
CHAPTER 21 - Booked
Don’t miss the second charming mystery in the Haunted Bookshop series.
The Ghost . . .
When Jack had been alive . . . the very blood in his veins pulsed to the beat of the city streets (when he’d had blood—and veins, that is).
Why couldn’t he have spent eternity in a place like that?
Instead he got eternity in cornpone alley.
Now the only excitement Jack ever had was scaring the crap out of small-town operators . . .
and Mrs. McClure
Her name was Penelope Thornton-McClure. And he had to admit she showed more moxie than a lot of grown men he’d pranked in the past fifty years.
Certainly, she was the first living entity he’d even considered shifting himself toward since he’d crossed over, which was hilarious because, if he’d read her thoughts right, she didn’t even believe in ghosts.
Well, he hadn’t believed in them either . . .
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously,
THE GHOST AND MRS. MCCLURE
A Berkley Prime Crime Book / published by arrangement with the author
PRINTING HISTORY Berkley Prime Crime mass-market edition / February 2004
Copyright © 2004 by The Berkley Publishing Group.
All rights reserved.
eISBN : 978-1-101-01044-0
Berkley Prime Crime Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group,
The author wishes to thank Senior Editor Kimberly Lionetti and literary agent John Talbot for their valued support in giving this distinct physical incarnation to what began as the ghost of an idea.
very special thanks to Major John J. Leyden, Jr.
Although real places and institutions are mentioned in this book, they are used in the service of fiction. No character in this book is based on any person, living or dead, and the world presented is completely fictitious.
“You mean there is a hell?” asked Lucy. “Some people might call it so,” said the captain. “There’s a dimension that some spirits have to wait in till they realize and admit the truth about themselves.”
My life is my own, and the opinions of others don’t interest me . . .
Quindicott, Rhode Island 1949
Cranberry. What kind of a cornball name was that for a street?
Jack Shepard hauled his powerful frame out of the black Packard and slammed the heavy door, sending a violent shudder through the mass of metal.
Five hours. He’d just spent five dusty hours behind the wheel of this boiler, hunched up like some luckless clipster trying to crack a bag man’s safe.
With easy fingers, Jack buttoned-closed his double-breasted jacket. The suit was gunmetal gray, rising in a V from his narrow waist to his acre of shoulders. Closing his eyes, he imagined a pretty set of hands working over the kinks and knots. Tonight, thought Jack. After the drive back to Manhattan’s crowded dirty noise, he’d find a willing pair in some suds club, like he always did.
Casing the scene, Jack scanned the two- and three-story buildings that lined this lane—a kiddie version of the towering steel and glass where he usually ranged. “Town,” he muttered. That’s what two farmers had called it about ten miles back, out by the cow pasture and old mill, where he’d asked for directions. The “Welcome to Quindicott” sign came next. Farmland after, more of the monotonous rolling green he’d driven through on the way up. Then came the gradual density of houses. Trees and lawns and hedges trimmed by do-right guys. Barking dogs and chubby-cheeked kids. You had your “quaint” town square, your manicured lawn, and your white bandshell with red trim. The whole thing looked so doggone cheery, Jack expected to see a Norman Rockwell signature in the sidewalk.
The “townsfolk” in this homespun little picture looked cheery enough, too, soaking up the last hours of the orange sun’s late-summer juice. Young men in flannel. Old men with clay pipes. Farmers’ wives in gingham, and shop girls with bare legs.
These people were off the cob, all right, Jack thought, starting a casual stroll. Corny as they came. Some rocked on porches, some gabbed on benches, some ambled along the cobblestone lane—and all eyes were on him—
“Who are ya, fella?”
“Ya don’t belong.”
Jack lit a butt from his deck of Luckies, then used a single finger to push back his fedora. You people want a look at my mug? Go on then, look.
Jack’s face wasn’t pretty, but no dame ever complained. His forehead was broad with thick sandy brows; his cheeks were sunken, and his nose like a boxer’s—slightly crooked with a broken-a-few-times bump. His jaw was iron, his chin flat and square—with a one-inch scar in the shape of a dagger slashing across it—and his eyes were sharper than a skiv. Freddie once told him they were the color of granite and just about as hard.
Maybe he was hard, thought Jack. But baby, this was one hick town. No painted dolls or groghounds here. No nickel rats, cheap grifters, or diamond-dripping dames looking to have their husbands set up. Just clean air, families with kids, potluck socials, and farm-fresh moo juice.
A town for settling down. That’s what this place was, thought Jack. A few of those bare-legged, unpainted country dolls passed him, gave him the shy version of the “what’s-your-name-big-fella?” once-over. Nice, thought Jack, eyeballing them right back. Shapely gams. Milky skin. Curves the way he liked them—bountiful. Jack took a long, slow drag from his Lucky and turned away. A man like him had to be careful in a place like this. Say the right thing to the wrong broad and he’d make her about a thousand times more miserable than he was.
With a slight limp, Jack continued his slow stroll—casual, easy, hands in pockets, the ache in his shin an unwanted souvenir from that underpaid job he’d done for Uncle Sam over in Germany. Jack ignored it. Continued to case the scene.
Ahead of him, a row of shops beckoned. Bakery, grocery, dress joint, beauty parlor. There it was: one twenty-two. A little more class than the other places. Probably did business with that fancy Newport set not far away. Wide plate-glass window. Words etched in: We Buy and Sell Books.
Yeah. But did they have the book he was looking for? The one they were looking for? The one they killed Freddie for?
The sun was sinking like a popped balloon now. The day was done, the lights nearly out, and just around the corner, a shadow stained the sidewalk, a city-suited figure, waiting.
Jack cursed low. Thought he’d shaken that tail.
He turned the brass handle, pushed. The shop’s bell tinkled like a bad girl’s giggle. A chill up his spine like a foot on his grave.
The shadow moved closer.
Jack’s hand rose, dipped into his suitcoat, caressed his rod’s handle, smooth from wear. He got a bad feeling, but Jack had gotten them before. And when he started a thing, he never turned back.
Besides, this job was for Freddie, and Jack promised his dead friend he’d ride this train out. All the way to the end of the line.
I stake my everlasting life on it.
When the shadow receded, Jack refocused his attention on the job at hand. Investigation and interrogation were things he’d polished as a private eye, but he’d learned as a cop—back before he’d joined up. In the service, he’d learned a lot more: About men and the things they’d do and say under pressure. About the enemy: how and why they’d lie, and, more importantly, what methods would pry the truth out of them.
The moment of truth came today.
For Jack it came sharp and hard and quick, landing at the back of his skull. But the blow didn’t kill him. The gunshots did. To the head, to the face, to the heart. Enough to make sure Jack Shepard’s everlasting promise to his friend began today . . . along with his everlasting life.
The Big Ending
Murder doesn’t round out anybody’s life, except the murdered and sometimes the murderer’s.
Quindicott, Rhode Island Today
“We killed him!”
I was beside myself. In a frantic state of hand-wringing and head-shaking, I paced the length of the bookshop’s aisle from Christie to Grafton and back again.
“Calm down, dear,” said my aunt, her slight frame tipping the Shaker rocker back and forth with about as much anxiety as a retiree on a Palm Beach sundeck.
“How can I calm down?” I asked. “We killed a best-selling author on the first night of his book tour!”
“Well, the milk’s gone and spilled now. No use crying over it. If you need help calming down, why don’t you have a belt?”
I was not surprised by this rather unladylike suggestion from my aunt. Sadie may have been seventy-two, and barely four feet eleven, but for an aging bantamweight she had a big mouth and a good right hook. The Quindicott Business Owners’ Association never forgot the day she’d spotted a shoplifter at ten yards (putting a Hammett first edition down his pants). She’d taken him out with one sharp Patricia Cornwell to the head.
Excerpted from "The Ghost and Mrs. McClure"
Copyright © 2004 Alice Kimberly.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is a cozy mystery with some added zip, a hardboiled character. This is a haunted bookshop in which the ghost was a hardboiled private detective. Lots of fun and originality. The combination is great and adds interest.
This was a fabulous first mystery. I read it in one day! I can¿t wait for another in this series! Penelope Thornton-McClure has returned to Quindicott, Rhode Island, to become co-owner of Buy the Book bookstore with her Aunt Sadie. Penelope brought her seven year old son Spencer with her. Penelope¿s husband Calvin recently killed himself. To help increase business, Penelope sets up an author appearance by Timothy Brennan, renowned author of the Detective Jack Shield story. Unfortunately Timothy chokes during his talk and dies. The next morning when Penelope wakes with a hangover, she figures his death will be the end of Buy the Book. Boy was she wrong. Apparently they sold every copy of his new book and all of his previous books as well. The next day more copies arrive. She doesn¿t know how they will sell them until they open and are mobbed once again. Then the State Police determine he was killed and arrest Brennan¿s daughter, Diedre. She and her husband Kenneth had arrived with Brennan and Shelby Cabot from the publisher¿s the night of Brennan¿s talk. About 50 years ago P.I. Jack Shepard had been shot in a bookstore in this same location. Apparently Brennan¿s Jack Shield character was built off of Jack Shepard. Penelope starts conversing with Jack Shepard in her head. Most of the time she is trying to stop hearing him, but he is very persistent. I like the interaction of Penelope and Jack, even though he¿s a ghost. This is such a well-written cozy. She has created likeable characters, including a ghost, but it isn¿t scary in the least. Matter of fact, I found it funny! The interaction between the other characters is well written as well. I also like the setting of a small Rhode Island town. The bookstore setting gives it charm. She has a real winner! I highly recommend this! You won¿t want to put it down.
If you like the movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, I believe that you will like this book. It is interesting how the author intermixes the current and past to tell 2 stories. I read all 5 books in this series in 3 days. Light, quick read and very entertaining.
If you love this series for the fun it provides, then you will love this one too. If you like cozies in general, then you will like this series. As always, there are at least two mysteries to be solved, but no goriness. For the books I recommend, I also recommend the whole series.
This is a great start to a great series. A great detective team that will make you want to read more and more. I've read all 5 titles in the series and can't wait for the next one.
I found this book very good. it is a different kind of mystery. It is about Penelope Thornton-McClure and the ghost of jack Sheppard. Jack Sheppard helps penelope solve a murder in the book store she co-owns with her aunt sadie. The plot keeps you clue to the book until the very end. I really enjoyed it and would recommended it.
A great story with ghost, Jack Shepard, an old school detective and living/widowed bookstore owner Penelope Thorton-McClure along with many other interesting small town characters. Great word visuals and Extraordinary vocabulary make this book a wonderful story.
I have always had a liked Perry Mason and The Shadow when I was growing up, I especially loved the episodes of Star Trek which had Jean Luc playing the character of Dixon Hill, the hard-boiled detective. When I got older, my obsession grew with mysteries and pulp novels. This book has both of these elements, a modern day mystery, but with the dialogue and ambiance of the old pulp novels. I highly recommend reading this book, you will love the main characters: Penelope McClure and Jack Shepard. I am looking forward to the other titles in the series, I cannot wait for the characters to grow.
Fun to read
Well, I must say that I had fun reading this. The premise made me think of that movie The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. You have a newly opened bookshop, an author died at said bookshop and Penelope and her aunt along with Pen's son Spencer, running the store. All the while an investigation is going on surrounding the author's death. What happened? Any suspects? Add more to the widow's worries is ghost Jack Shepherd, haunting the bookstore. I stayed up a little, to finish this. I had maybe a couple of chapters left and wanted to know how the mystery would end, who done it, etc. I liked the writing style with the different dialogue chapters, given you an idea on whose who. That this was a quick read. I was surprised to find I was already halfway into the book, thinking, huh, wish this was a little longer, but that's okay. I'm curious as to where the story will go in the series, since near the end, it seems there's some, well unfinished business, concerning the fedora wearing ghost detective. Also liked, that there's some tension between the two, all the while Jack is helping Penelope with standing up for herself. I like that. Pretty good start to another new series I'm looking forward to catching up on.
What do you do when the economy is bad and your little bookstore hasn't the ghost of a chance of surviving ? A real death in the store can definitely drum up business. Then add a real ghost of a PI whose own murder happened in that same spot more than 50 years ago, and you've got yourself a booming new business, a murder to solve, and a fun new cozy series! In a small town in Rhode Island, recently widowed Penelope Thornton and her Aunt Sadie have decided to host a famous mystery writer at their mystery book store. Though he is arrogant and demonstrative, his books are big sellers. But before he can really get into his talk, he drops dead at the podium. Then Penelope realizes that she can hear the ghost go the PI who was murdered in her store, and he's encouraging her to solve this new murder, before the police decide Penelope is a murderer. This fun mystery plays on the hard boiled noir mysteries of yesteryear. The ghost, Jack Shepard, dialogues in the speech of past detectives. The chapters are all headed by quotes from characters or publications that any respectable mystery buff will recognize--like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. Definitely reminiscent of the past, while creating a present mystery that will haunt you. Luckily, there are already four more in this series for me to read. This dame is ready to detect !
What starts out as predictable and corny, quickly moves to a brush with times past when detectives hung to the sides of fog feathered alleys, I found myself drawn in as Jack, the ghost with a past, coaches Penelope through the dark stacks of ghostwriters. Looking forward to the next installment,
I loved the combination of old school detective jargon along with modern day life. Lots of fun. The method of communication between the ghost and Mrs. McClure is clever and not typical in my experience.
The book was very good. I love suspense, romance, and humor which this story was all about.
The bookstore owner working with a ghost PI really keeps you on your toes. All kinds of twists and turns.
Liked it. Would read the series.
I wasn't sure I'd like reading a ghost story but I loved it. I'm ready for Series #2.
Unusual but interesting, kept my attention from beginning to end looking forward to #2
I enjoy this saucy mystery and characters that Cleo Coyle developed!
Noir meets literacy! This is a charming mystery premise with equally charming characters and solid writing. Can't recommend it highly enough.
This was a fun book to read. It is set in a quant haunted bookstore, where the owner discovers she can talk to ghosts. In this first book, the ghost is a detective who was killed in the store many years before. The 30 something woman and the ghost solve murders together.
First in the Haunted Bookshop mystery series. Jack Shepard was a noirish PI in the Dashiell Hammett mode.when he was shot dead in front of a bookshop in Quindicott, Rhode Island in 1949. His spirit hung around bored for the next fifty years until Penelope Thornton-McClure became a partner in her Aunt Sadie's bookshop. Pen is able to hear Jack, and he finds her just his kind of person. When their first author event ends in the author's death, Pen and Jack have to solve the case.Good novel, not outstanding, but I'll read more in the series.
After her husband dies Penelope (Pen to her friends) and her son move to a small down in Rhode Island to help her Aunt Sadie save her book store. Pen has lots of big ideas for the store, including expanding and adding author signings. When one of the most famous authors around decides to kick off his book tour at Buy The Book, Pen and her aunt couldn't be happier. Until the author dies write in the middle of the signing. All of a sudden, Pen starts hearing a voice - the voice of a PI who died 50 years ago in the exact same spot. Pen believes she's going crazy, but quickly comes to believe that the ghost is real. With the help of Jack (the ghost) and several of her friends in the area, Pen is able to help solve the murder of the author. I am a huge fan of the Cleo Coyle coffeehouse series, so I couldn't wait to get started on this one. While it was pretty easy to figure out the culprit early on, I enjoyed getting to know the characters and seeing how it all played out - devouring the book in one sitting. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series - and to see what just "happens" with Pen and Jack.
The characters needed a bit more fleshing out, the ghost in particular, as there was a lot of questions left unanswered. But overall, I'm totally digging this book, and the 1940's slang used by the ghost. Never realized just how much slang there was for that specific time period!