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Monday, 27 July 2020

‘His Father’s Ghost’ by Linda Stratmann

Published by Sapere Books,
20 July 2020.
ISBN: 978-1-80055015-5 (PB)

The year is 1872 and, in Victorian Brighton, Mina Scarletti has a growing reputation as an exposer of fake mediums. Mina has no objection to people who provide comfort to the bereaved for little or no monetary reward, but she despises those who profit from exploiting the grief of desperate people who have lost somebody they love. Mina is often requested to investigate sightings of ghosts and the activities of mediums, however, when a letter arrives from an anxious mother, concerned that her son claims to be seeing his father’s ghost, Mina is far too ill to even read it. Mina suffers from scoliosis, and the resultant curvature of her spine constricts her lungs, this means that when she gets a cold, the resulting illness comes close to ending her life.

Fortunately, Mina does survive, and soon discovers the frustration of not being allowed to exert herself mentally as well as physically. Her nurse, Miss Cherry, is conscientious and considerate but her determination to read excerpts from an improving and bland volume, The Young Woman’s Handbook, is something that Mina endures rather than enjoys. Mina is far more interested in the story that Miss Cherry tells her about the patient she was with before Mina, a boy called Franklin Holt, who has become ill with a nervous condition and is afraid to sleep at night because believes he sees his father’s ghost. Franklin’s father, Jasper Holt, had disappeared seven years previously after going overboard from a yacht. Holt had just insured his life for a substantial amount and it was soon discovered that his business was on the verge of bankruptcy; because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding his disappearance and the fact that no body was found, the insurance company refused to pay. Many people’s businesses suffered and there were rumours that Holt’s wife had been aware of her husband’s fraud. When Mina is allowed to read her letters, she discovers that one is from Mrs Vardy, who until her recent marriage, had been Mrs Holt. Unaware of Mina’s illness, Mrs Vardy expresses the hope that Mina could help her son, who is haunted by his father’s ghost. Although Mr Holt has been declared legally dead, there is still a possibility that he is actually alive; however, Mrs Vardy is convinced that he is dead because a medium, Mrs Barnham, has convinced her of this.

Mina’s freedom of movement has always been limited by her physical frailty but now cannot go out and question people at all. Nevertheless, she is consumed by curiosity. Because her mental powers have always been far stronger than her physical endurance, she already knows how to make the most of her advantages, and she enlists others to go out and find information for her. Mina’s actor friend, Marcus Merridew investigates Mrs Barnham, while her younger brother, Richard, proves surprisingly helpful, due to his new employment as a photographer’s assistant; her doctor and friend, Doctor Hamid, and her solicitor, Mr Phipps, also play their parts in the enquiry. With this assistance and access to newspapers and photographs, Mina manages to unravel a complex mystery, filled with deceit, fraud and mistaken identity, without leaving her room.

His Father’s Ghost is the fifth book in the series featuring Mina Scarletti. It is an intriguing story with an interesting plot, immaculate period detail, and above all an engaging protagonist who demonstrates that a skilful detective does not need physical prowess if they have intelligence and determination. This is an excellent addition to an extremely good series. A very enjoyable book, which I thoroughly 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 This Game of Ghosts click on the title.

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