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by Tonya Koppes
Witness, August 2015
275 pages
ISBN: 0062374915

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

n A GHOSTLY DEMISE, the third in Tonya Kappes' Ghostly Southern Mystery series, Emma Lee Raines is again seeing ghosts and showing her crazy, which lands her in the middle of a mess in a hurry. For those new to the series, Emma Lee is a "Betweener"--someone who sees dead people stuck in this realm and helps them get to the other side. Word is spreading as quickly through the spirit world as it does in small-town Kentucky that Emma Lee is good at her job as a Betweener, so ghosts keep showing up. Luckily for Emma Lee, her good-looking boyfriend Sheriff Jack Henry Ross understands that the appearance of a ghost means he has a murder on his hands rather than that his girlfriend is crazy, but in A GHOSTLY DEMISE, the ghost doesn't have a body, so there's no proof of any crime. That means Emma Lee has to do most of the investigating herself, much to Jack Henry's disapproval. And Jack Henry isn't the only one disapproving. Emma Lee's sister and partner in the funeral parlor business (but not the Betweener business) Charlotte Rae is appalled by the way both Emma Lee and Granny Zula Fae are making spectacles of themselves out talking to ghosts and trying to get votes for Granny in a hard-fought mayoral campaign, and the town gossips have plenty to shake their heads over what with some of the antics they're seeing. It doesn't help things that the murder victim is a notorious drinker and gambler who supposedly abandoned his family--including Emma Lee's friend Mary Anna--five years earlier, and to solve the mystery, Emma Lee has to dig up a lot of dirty laundry and uncover some unsavory town history. Before everything is said and done, even Granny Zula Fae is being accused of murder, and Emma Lee finds out just how dangerous--both for herself and those she loves--investigating a murder can be.

In case all the two-name characters didn't clue you in, A GHOSTLY DEMISE is a bit long on corn pone and short on substance. It takes all the stereotypes of small-town American South and wraps them up in 275 pages of oddball characters, unlikely coincidences, and manufactured drama. But that's not to say it's a bad read. Kappes puts the stereotyping just enough over the top that it's entertaining rather than off-putting, and while there's no real character development or deep investigation of theme--or even a whole lot of plot, for that matter--the story moves well enough and the characters are interesting enough to create a fun, fast distraction from life's weightier concerns. And don't worry if this is your introduction to the series. Kappes easily and effortlessly brings readers up to speed. If you're already a fan, Kappes proves that she can keep pace with the speed of the read: the next book in the series-- A GHOSTLY MURDER--is already available.

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, September 2015

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