Series: Haunted Vintage #1
Published by Kensington on December 2nd 2014
Source: the publisher
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Cookie Chanel has a passion for fashion—and a murder mystery to solve! Cookie Chanel has opened her own vintage clothing boutique, It’s Vintage, Y’All, in the charming town of Sugar Creek, Georgia. Always on the lookout for stylish second-hand steals, she attends the estate sale of deceased socialite Charlotte Meadows. But she gets a lot more than she bargained for when Charlotte’s ghost appears before her—offering fashion advice and begging Cookie to find out who murdered her. As the persistent poltergeist tags along and a possibly psychic pussycat moves into the shop, Cookie sorts through racks of suspects to see who may be hiding some skeletons in the closet. Do a clothing store owner and a disembodied socialite have a ghost of a chance of collaring a killer—or will Cookie’s life be the next one hanging by a thread?
I wanted to love this book. I really did. Vintage clothing, mystery, and a ghost? It sounded charming. Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me. The vintage clothing details are wonderful; Ms. Pressey clearly did her research. They left me wanting to search for vintage clothing for myself. The mystery and some of the characters, on the other hand, never quite grabbed me.
Charlotte, the ghost who wants Cookie to solve her murder, is sometimes fun but often irritating. Granted, she is probably intended to be – certainly Cookie finds her so – but I occasionally found myself unsurprised that she was murdered, which I don’t think was the intention. Cookie herself is a likeable character who doesn’t really want to be investigating, which is at least a refreshing twist. She only gets involved because she can’t find any other way to get rid of Charlotte. On the other hand, Cookie is a bit too easily encouraged into doing risky things in the course of her investigation. And while I understand why she can’t tell the police about the ghost and thus can’t explain her interest in Charlotte’s death, she’s not very good at lying, so it doesn’t make her look very good. . . which makes the lead detective’s apparent attraction to her a little puzzling, if cute.
The secondary characters are a mixed bag. Many of them are very superficial. Cookie’s best friend Heather, who owns an occult-goods shop but can’t actually see or hear the ghost, is an exception; she’s a little more fleshed out, and engaging, though there’s very little backstory to show why the women are best friends. The enigmatic and decidedly unusual cat Wind Song is interesting and has potential, but she appears out of nowhere for no apparent reason, and that bothered me. Why do two completely unrelated paranormal characters suddenly latch on to the main character when nothing else has changed in her hitherto normal life? It doesn’t make sense and is never explained.
The mystery itself is the biggest problem, however. The pacing is poor: After a promising start when Cookie gets saddled with Charlotte’s ghost in the first few pages, there is a long section where Cookie is mainly trying to get rid of Charlotte. It’s sometimes funny but does little to advance the mystery plot. Then there’s another and possibly related death, followed by another long section where nothing much happens, and the clues are sparse and slow to crop up. When things finally do begin to pick up, the murderer is fairly easy to spot, but the motivation feels weak and the whole resolution falls a bit flat. It left me feeling that this was a themed-mystery premise in search of a mystery.
I would put the flaws down to new-writer lack of experience, but this isn’t Ms. Pressey’s first novel or even her first mystery. I hope that the mystery aspect of the series improves in future books, because there is promise here. But promise and a cute premise aren’t enough. Next time, please give me a mystery I can sink my teeth into.