In this mystery series starter, a retired cop moves into an old mansion, complete with literal and metaphorical ghosts.
Delia Sanchez is ready for a new chapter in her life. After 15 years in the Los Angeles Police Department and recent deaths in her family, she attends an open house for the Loring Mansion in LA’s Santa Clotilde neighborhood. She thinks, “This is my do-over,” but there are strings attached: The house’s buyer must be caregiver to its current feline residents, Zoeth and Esmeralda, for 10 years—and Delia hates cats. It also turns out that the house has a resident ghost. Delia isn’t a believer in the paranormal, but strange happenings start to wear down her skepticism as she tries to write her new novel. Meanwhile, her nephew Val and cousin Dora move in to renovate the place, offering a buffer against the house’s spectral presence. When Delia takes in Marisol, a young victim of domestic abuse, the odd found family bands together to get to the bottom of the haunting. Gill ably balances the book’s eerier storyline with comedy, as when a spooked Delia mistakenly attacks her nephew with a water gun or a character comments that powdered sugar on his suit might be mistaken for cocaine and make him seem “more interesting.” Delia’s relationship with her deceased brother Jimmy is carefully drawn, as is Marisol’s heartbreaking storyline. The book’s romance between Delia and Gabriel McBride, whom she meets at the local bistro, is well paced, though it proves to be one of the story’s less interesting threads. Some elements feel unearned, including an intervention from Delia’s siblings that’s resolved in less than a page. There’s also some clunky writing, as when Delia considers Marisol’s predicament: “I contemplated the younger woman knowing that the weakness to our plan of protecting her was the very love that she had for her family that kept her from going home.” This said, the mystery is well limned, and while a little predictable, the denouement is grounded and satisfying.
A slightly uneven paranormal tale with as many family laughs as fearful held breaths.