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Monday, 8 January 2018

‘The Royal Ghost’ by Linda Stratmann



Published by The Mystery Press,
4 Aug. 2016. 
ISBN: 978-0-7509-6629-0

Mina Scarletti suffers from scoliosis, a deformity of the bones that has twisted her spine and resulted in many health problems, but this does not prevent Mina from making the most of her life. She writes horror stories, which are published under a pseudonym. Her mother and sister believe that she writes improving morality stories for children. As true, upper-middle-class Victorians, they would be horrified at the impropriety of her writing if they knew the truth. Another thing her mother would disapprove of are the callisthenic exercises that Mina does every day to improve her muscle strength. The exercises were devised by Dr Daniel Hamid, and Mina’s health also benefits from the special massages she receives from Dr Hamid’s sister, Anna. Mina met Dr Hamid and Anna a year previously, when she was investigating a medium who was preying on vulnerable people in Brighton. Dr Hamid was ashamed when he realised that he, a man of science, had fallen for the tricks of a fraudster who had offered him the hope of contact with his dead wife, and he had helped Mina to uncover the truth about the fraud. Many bereaved and desolate people had lost money to the fraudulent medium, as well as suffering a great deal of grief and loss of hope. The Hamid family had lost more than money through the medium. Their sister, Eliza, also a sufferer from scoliosis, had caught cold and died after attending a séance. Mina’s mother was one of the people who was deceived and, until Mina revealed the truth, she had believed her late husband, Mina’s father, was speaking to her from beyond the grave.

The book starts in 1871, a year after Mina exposed the truth about the fraudulent medium. Mina had hoped that the residents of Brighton had learned their lesson and abandoned all interest in mediums and their claims, however, Anna Hamid tells her about a book that is enjoying immense and growing popularity. This book claims to be the true story of the Misses Bland, two apparently respectable young women who say that they saw the ghost of the Prince Regent (later George IV) when he was a young man in the Brighton Pavilion. They describe the ghost Prince’s encounter with the equally spectral Mrs Fitzherbert, his mistress. In the book, their love-making is described in salacious detail and reading it has adversely affected the health of many delicate, female readers.

Arthur Wallace Hope visits Brighton as part of his lecture and book signing tour, to promote his quest to send relief to Dr Livingstone, who is searching for the source of the Nile in Africa. Hope is much that is admirable: he is a Viscount, rich, handsome, brave, determined and charismatic. The problem is that he is also an ardent believer in spiritualism and is willing to do anything to force people to accept the claims of the Misses Bland and the fraudulent medium that Mina has exposed. As Hope resorts to bullying, blackmail and trickery to get his own way, Mina realises that she and her friends will have to be very clever, and very lucky, to unravel the web of deceit and discover the truth before she and several other innocent people are ruined by Hope’s obsession.

The Royal Ghost is the second book featuring Mina Scarletti and the events in this book are very closely interwoven with the first book, Mr Scarletti’s Ghost. It says much for the skill of the author that this second book manages to stand alone. I look forward to reading the first book in the series.

Mina is a superb protagonist, a strong-minded, courageous young woman who accepts the limitations placed upon her by her physical disability but will not allow it to limit her intellectual or imaginative life, nor will she let it quell her determined investigations to unearth the truth. The author’s descriptions of Victorian Brighton and the Royal Pavilion are very vivid and her descriptions of middle-class, Victorian, family life are totally convincing. Her depiction of Hope sheds light on how so many otherwise intelligent and decent men could delude themselves in such a foolish and destructive manner.
The Royal Ghost is an intelligent and intriguing book and one which I would definitely recommend.
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Reviewer: Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in the city of Leicester on 4 April 1948. Linda attended Medway Street Infants and Junior School, in the days of the eleven plus, and from there went to Wyggeston Girls Grammar School. Her earliest ambition was to be an astronomer, and she read and wrote a great deal of science fiction. She also read biology, zoology and medicine, and seriously considered a medical career. But by her teens, she had developed an absorbing and life-long interest in true crime, probably taking after her mother who loved to read about famous trials.  Linda I took her A levels and went to Newcastle University in 1971, graduating with first class honours in psychology three years later. She then joined the civil service, and trained to be an Inspector of Taxes.  In 1987, unable to resist the pull of London she moved there, married her second husband, Gary in 1993. In 2001 she left the civil service, and started a new career as a freelance writer and sub-editor, and in 2002 was commissioned to write her first published book on the history of Chloroform.


Carol Westron is a successful short story writer and a Creative Writing teacher.  She is the moderator for the cosy/historical crime panel, The Deadly Dames.  Her crime novels are set both in contemporary and Victorian times.  The Terminal Velocity of Cats, the first in her Scene of Crimes novels, was published July 2013. Her latest book Strangers and Angels published 28 November 2017 is set in Victorian England.  Also published in 2017 is her fourth novel in her scene of Crimes Series Karma and the Singing Frogs.  

To to read a review of Karma and the Singing Frogs, click on the title





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