If Walls Could Talk (Haunted Home Renovation Mystery #1) by Juliet Blackwell
Publisher: Obsidian (Penguin/Dec. 2010)
*Haunted Home Renovation Mystery
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes and Noble
Melanie Turner has made quite a name for herself remodeling historic houses in the San Francisco Bay Area. But now her reputation may be on the line.
At her newest project, a run-down Pacific Heights mansion, Mel is visited by the ghost of a colleague who recently met a bad end with power tools. Mel hopes that by nailing the killer, she can rid herself of the ghostly presence of the murdered man-and not end up a construction casualty herself…
Mel Turner, divorcee and former social anthropologist, now runs Turner Construction for her father, specializing in renovation of historic homes. When she stops in on a new jobsite, she and the owner, aging rockstar Matt Addax are confronted with Kenneth, a gravely injured man, and Matt’s partner (let’s just say it involves a nail gun and a table saw) who later dies at the hospital. With a seeming lack of other suspects, Matt is swiftly arrested, but Mel knows Matt couldn’t have done that to Kenneth, and she’s determined to find out the truth. It really doesn’t help that all of a sudden, she can see, and hear, Kenneth’s ghost. He can’t remember a thing, and he’s really no help in finding his killer, so Mel is on her own, but she soon realizes that there’s lots more to this case then meets the eye, and even she may not be safe from Kenneth’s killer.
I really enjoyed If Walls Could Talk. I like that Mel is a more mature character, closing in on 40, and doing her best not to be distracted by the handsome Graham, a blast from her past who tried to talk her out of marrying her ex, and now an OSHA employee that’s putting quite a damper on her current project. When it rains, it pours, and during her investigation, Mel finds herself getting asked out multiple times by two very different and attractive men. Her real attraction lies with Graham though (as much as she tries to fight it), and their tentative dance around each other made for some really fun tension which I’m really hoping the author will explore in future novels. Mel is a woman in a man’s world, and I enjoyed her character’s fondness for history and antiques, and the details on architectural restoration added a really interesting facet to the story. Mel also must come to grips with her sudden ability to see ghosts (possibly handed down by her mom), and I appreciated that despite some initial skepticism, Mel chose to believe what her eyes and ears were telling her. She’s no Skully, and I always get frustrated when characters ignore the obvious, usually to their detriment. The author also surrounds Mel with a fascinating supporting cast, including her father, his friend Stan, and her ex stepson, who she’s very fond of and who looks to Mel as a second mom. The setting, San Francisco, is positively radiant, adding lots of atmosphere to the story, and following the clues with Mel was great fun! Charming characters, a well-crafted mystery, fascinating historic details, and a heroine to root for make If Walls Could Talk a must read for whodunit fans!