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Tuesday 10 July 2018

‘An Unquiet Ghost’ By Linda Stratmann

Published by Sapere Books,
22 February 2018.
ISBN: 978-1912546077 (PB)

It is winter 1871 and, for long periods of time, Mina Scarletti is confined to her house in Brighton. Mina suffers from scoliosis and the bleak weather makes outings too foolhardy, apart from her weekly visits to receive Dr Hamid’s medicated herbal steam baths. At home, Mina occupies herself by writing horror stories that have become very popular, although only her publisher knows the nature of her stories and most people believe that she writes stories for children. Mina has seen the damage that false mediums can do when they leech onto vulnerable, bereaved people and rob them of vast sums of money, and she has been responsible for revealing the truth about these fraudsters and even for sending some of them to prison.

Mina knows that she has become famous for unmasking fraudulent mediums, but she is surprised when George Fernwood and his cousin, Mary Clifton, approach her to ask her to help them to find an honest medium, who can truly receive communications from the dead. George and Mary wish to marry, but, twenty years previously, their grandfather died, indicating with his last coherent word that he had been poisoned. Unfortunately, he died before he could name his murderer. George and Mary tell Mina that they fear to marry when they do not know if their grandfather was indeed murdered and, if so, which member of their family was responsible. They wish to contact their grandfather’s ghost to ask him to tell them the truth.

Mina is intrigued by this problem and visits two purported mediums, accompanied by George and Mary. The first is Miss Athene Brendell, who lives with her mother in elegant rented accommodation in one of Bath’s more select areas. As a medium, Miss Brendell is unusual, as neither she nor her mother charge for her services. Miss Brendell is an ethereal, fragile young woman, and Mina does not think that she is deliberately deceiving her visitors, but suspects that her ill-health might be affecting her mind. This leads Mina into some fascinating discussions with Dr Hamid and his colleagues about how illness can influence a person’s perception of the world. Mina is dismayed when she realises that it is possible that her own tales of horror might encourage belief in the supernatural and in the powers of mediums.

Mina thinks that the second medium should be easier to discredit. He is a man who claims that spirits write the answers to questions on slates when it seems impossible for a human to have done so. Mina has been trained by her brother’s former mistress, who before her prosperous marriage was on the stage and knows all about conjurors’ tricks, and she is sure that the slate writing is a fake. However, this medium passes Mina’s most stringent tests and she is faced with the fact that he might have unearthly powers and that ghosts may actually exist.

This is the third in the series featuring Mina Scarletti. It is a fascinating series and this book excellent. Mina is an unusual and delightful protagonist, a young woman who will not be beaten, either by her own frail body or by outside detractors. She is determined to live her own life to its full potential and accepts her limitations with good sense, not giving up on her objectives but using her band of helpers to do the things that she physically cannot manage. The plot is interesting and the background information about spiritualism is fascinating. This is an author whose research is always impeccable and who threads the information through the story with great skill. An Unquiet Ghost is a page turner which I wholeheartedly recommend.
Reviewer: Carol Westron

Linda Stratmann was born in Leicester in 1948 and first started scribbling stories and poems at the age of six. She became interested in true crime when watching Edgar Lustgarten on TV in the 1950s. Linda attended Wyggeston Girls Grammar School, trained to be a chemist’s dispenser, and later studied at Newcastle University where she obtained a first in Psychology. She then spent 27 years in the civil service before leaving to devote her time to writing. Linda loves spending time in libraries and archives and really enjoys giving talks on her subject.

 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. Carol recently gave an interview to Mystery People. To read the interview click on the link below.

To read a review of Carol latest book Strangers and Angels click on the title.

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