Audiobook Review: An Inquiry into Love and Death

First off, thank you very much to Simone St. James for granting me the win of the paperback of An Inquiry into Love and Death. Once again, the cover knocks it out of the park and makes it so intriguing to want to read. I read St. James’ first novel The Haunting of Maddy Clare, and believe I spent as much time devouring the book as I did flipping back to look at the cover. However, An Inquiry into Love and Death came available in audio and thank you to Audiobook JukeBox and Blackstone Audio (Downpour) for allowing us the opportunity to listen.

The two covers below are for the paperback and the audio for An Inquiry… Both absolutely lovely. The third book cover is the one for The Haunting of Maddy Clare. I’m a sucker for great book covers and whomever is responsible for the design of Ms. St. James’ books deserves heaps of praise and awards.  And doesn’t the girl on the cover of the audio version look like Lady Mary Crawley? Love it!

15808471   17557792   11832043

My first discovery of St. James’ novels was when The Haunting of Maddy Clare was first out. Initially I was taken by the cover, and then I read that the book was something along the lines of “Maisie Dobbs – Ghost Hunter”. Really? Sign me up! And I did truly enjoy The Haunting of Maddy Clare. Great ghost story! Therefore, when the news came that another one was on its way, I was delighted. Then to win a copy? Giddy with glee.

There is one difference between the Maisie Dobbs or the Maggie Hope novels, (as they take place in between the WW eras), and it is that St. James’ adds romance to the storyline. Indeed, in The Haunting, there was a tad more of the bodice-ripping type romance writing than in the Maisie or Maggie stories.

However, in An Inquiry into Love and Death, the heavier parts seems to have been toned down considerably. At any rate, it is another top notch ghost story and mystery! I absolutely enjoyed every character, they were all wonderfully realized and distinct. The habitants of the village of Rothewell were interesting people to spend time with. Jillian herself, is a great heroine and I enjoyed every moment with her. Jillian does indeed find herself in some harrowing moments and adventures!

The story opens with Jillian being called to meet with the family’s lawyer while she’s in school at Oxford. This in itself is not the norm for young women of Jillian’s age in this time. And educated woman is frowned upon.  Now, it seems her Uncle Toby has met his demise in Rothewell and as her parents are far to busy and wrapped up in their own lives to settle his affairs, it is up to Jillian, to a.) identify the body and b.) pack all of his belongings and clear him out of the place he was renting.

It is the break from her studies, of which Jillian is quite serious about, that is most concerning to her, that being left with the settling of Uncle Toby’s belongings. Her Uncle has long held the frowned upon, not-taken-seriously-occupation of ghost hunting. He obviously must have been in this village to track a ghost. Jillian is set to do this for her Uncle however, as she has always been quite fond of him but has not been in touch with him in the past 5 years or so.

Jillian sets off to Rothwell and quickly discovers the ghost her uncle has been researching. “Walking John” has long haunted the house Toby has been living in and the woods around Blood Moon Bay. She also quickly learns that Toby’s death may not have been so accidental. Something more sinister than the local ghost is causing a great disturbance in Rothewell.

Enter, the tall, dark, extremely handsome (and young) Inspector Drew Merriken from Scotland Yard.

Jillian and Drew are powerfully and immediately attracted to one another and together they set out to solve the many secrets hidden deep in Rothewell. Jillian also makes important and life changing discoveries about herself, her identity and her family history.

Now, about the audiobook: Rosalyn Landor provides the narration. There is truly no denying that Landor has the most pleasant narrative voice. Her lilt and narration is top notch. However….I firmly stand by my belief that she was just not the right fit for this narration. Jillian is a young woman and immediately upon first listening to Jillian’s voice spoken by Landor I felt she sounded far too old and mature beyond her 22 years. And then…oh lord…then there were the male voices. Horrible. I’m sorry, they were. Drew Merriken is a young man that makes you weak in the knees when in his presence and his voice was that of an old, old stodgy man. Grit your teeth and speak in a lofty and Old stodgy voice and there you have the most frustrating voice of Inspector Merriken. It was so terrible that so many many times I considered ending the audio and picking up the book instead.  But, as the story progressed and the intensity of the situations increased, Landor improved giving more emotion to the narration. I stuck with it. I pushed through my annoyance (and deep frustration) at the male voices and just lost myself in Jillian’s adventures and discoveries. Overall, it is worth the listen, it was just a matter of bracing myself and becoming accustomed to the (terrible) male voices.

An Inquiry into Love and Death is another fantastic ghost story taking place in a favoured era to read about, with another fantastic heroine. This Literary Hoarder enjoyed this Simone St. James novel once again! I’m now looking forward to the third!

Review: The Haunting of Maddy Clare

Maddy Clare has been haunting the barn at Falmouth House for the past seven years. Maddy doesn’t like men, and becomes very angry and destructive when one ventures near. Mrs. Clare, owner of Falmouth House, is now frail and old. Along her housekeeper, Mrs. McCready, both just want to see her gone for good. But Maddy isn’t ready to go, she wants revenge.

Alistair Gellis and his assistant, Matthew Ryder are seasoned ghost hunters, but are also shell-shocked war veterans fighting inner demons/ghosts of their own. Maddy doesn’t take kindly to men entering her barn, which means Alistair must find a girl to help them document and rid Falthom House of its destructive ghost. Sarah Piper, living a lonely existence in London, is called by her temp agency asking if she would take an unlikely assignment.  Does she dare set aside her fears and apprehension and take it?

Falmouth House is located in the small town of Waringstoke. Everyone knows one another, and there seems to be much they wish to keep hidden. Especially the mystery surrounding the servant girl, Maddy Clare. Many believe in the ghost of Maddy, but they are also most unwilling to part with any real information to help solve the mystery surrounding Maddy Clare, her suicide and her haunting.

It so turns out that Sarah Piper is quite receptive to ghosts. Maddy immediately claims Sarah and with every presence of Maddy, Sarah is overcome with vivid images and revelations. Maddy begins to control Sarah and gives her an assignment as well.

Find them. There are 3 of them. Find where I am buried.

Therefore, with the help and knowledge coming through Sarah, her, Alistair and Matthew set out on solving a mystery Waringstoke is reluctant to reveal, and to help calm Maddy and give her peace to move on.

I was very, very intrigued by this book, first because of the beautiful cover, and as I had read a quick synopsis someone had posted that said it was like “Maisie Dobbs, Ghostwhisperer”. And whomever posted that was bang on! Throw in a touch of Hitchcock for good measure (think Birds) (lots of birds!), and you have a darn good mystery with the lead female sleuth indeed very much like Maisie Dobbs. It takes place in the same time period, post-WWI, and Sarah finds herself all in as ghost hunter/ ghost whisperer.

This was a very quick read, I read it in under 3 days, it had my full attention for much of it, as it was spooky at times, not too scary, but with just the right amount of edge & intrigue – Maddy is a very angry ghost filled with hatred and intent on destroying all for what these men did to her. But I’m taking a half star off for some of the gratutitous sex scenes thrown in that I thought were unnecessary. There were only very few really, but I felt some of the detail was too much and detracted from the characters and the time (perhaps I’m too wistful about the era?).  I’m definitely hoping we see more of Sarah Piper in the future though!

Simone St. James’ website can be found here.

Alternative reviews of The Haunting of Maddy Clare can be read from Agnes Mack’s Books, The Historical Novel Society and from The Book of Secrets.