Thursday, January 15, 2009

Ashes to Ashes by Liliian Stewart Carl

Finally! A new author I can enjoy. I just got rid of five books and three authors. Very disappointing. I thought I was going to get fantasy with undertones of romance instead, I got sleazy sex scenes with wimpy heroines (being touted as independent because they whined a lot) who enjoyed being sexually assaulted. This drivel is being published?! There's hope for me yet! I didn't finish or really even start some of those books. I read the prologue to one and found it blatantly broke several writing rules I've come to depend on as a writer, plus I was bored to tears, in the prologue which really wasn't a prologue because it happened the day before the novel takes place. Scanning ahead and reading some online reviews lead to me to the conclusion the story wasn't going to get any better. Then I flipped through the other books and quickly discovered reading them would be a waste of my time. Then I picked up Ashes to Ashes and my faith in writers and the publishing industry was restored.

In October, Rebecca Reid leaves behind Dover and her fiance, Ray, to catalogue the contents of Dun Iain, built by John Forbes to imitate Castle Craigievar. Unfortunately, he didn't have the Happy Ever After associated with castles. His wife, Elspeth, commits suicide, throwing herself from the window -- or was she pushed? The castle knows and is trying to talk, but there's a communication problem because everyone wants to talk at once. At first, Rebecca tries to remain practical and brush off the notion of ghosts. She's a got a job to do and a dissertation to write, both include looking for the Erskine letters which can clear up some confusion about Mary Stuart's son and heir. Complicating matters is Scottish "charming-when-he-wants-to-be" Dr. Michael Campbell. He's been lent by the British Museum to return some of the artifacts back to the old country per the instructions of James Forbes's will. But does he have his own idea of what is right and proper? Rebecca wonders. The only one who is above suspicion in this little charade is Darnley, the resident cat. He probably knows what's going on, but no one speaks Cat. Too bad, a lot of things would've been cleared up if they did. Among the house workers are Dorothy, the housekeeper, Phil, the handyman, and his son/helper, Steve. Eric, the lawyer handling the will's estate, pops in from time to time to ensure everything is running smooth. He's also a smooth character who fancies Rebecca and the feeling is mutual - so long, Ray. The weeks pass, things disappear, reappear, lights go crazy, a lot of things go bump in the night and day, no one trusts anyone (hey, where's Scully and Mulder when all this is happening?) and the plot thickens like a Scottish fog until the final showdown.

This book was a breath of fresh air. Finally, a book with plot, characters, settings, and passion -- other than getting into someone's pants. The plot had me going. I had figured some of it out, but Carl threw in some curve balls which I actually enjoyed. The proper people got punished, others learned valuable lessons, and the ghosts were laid to rest. The cat was also such a delight. What's a haunted castle without a cat to stir things up, although he does prove himself valuable in more ways than one. There's also a sequel, Dust to Dust, but I think I'll wait. I'm planning on giving mysteries a little bit of a break, almost, and try some fantasy.


Amanda said...

Rebecca! You're in a mystery novel now!

L said...

I'm curious about the books/authors you tossed. Care to drop any names? Might save me some time in the future.

This one sounds really good. Cats are devilish characters.

Christina said...

The authors I've since dropped are: Anya Bast, Angela Knight, Kelley Armstrong, and Kassandra Sims. Way too much sex and little emphasis on the paranormal/fantasy. The plots were weak and so were the main characters.

Cats are devious that's why it was interesting that Darnley was above suspicion. I loved the paradox.

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