Reviewed by Lisa Lickel.
Using a true setting and voices from the past, debut author Patricia Camalliere’s ghost story mixes up sleuthing, a love affair with history, family ties, and some scary activity as an over-protective poltergeist demands justice.
Camalliere’s careful attention to detail and ability to glean historical facts to weave into her imaginative story helps readers live in two worlds. The author adds to the narrative using newspaper articles, diary entries, and letters “written” in the past, as well as modern technology.
The story opens with newly retired and relocated Cora Tozzi on a walk through the woods, a scene filled with hair-raising creepiness, an essence of things to come, and the meaning behind future events that will cause an “aha” moment. Cora is one active lady, and when weird events become more pronounced to those around her, even to the point of harming Cora’s detractors, she realizes a pattern. Protective spirits have always surrounded her—not to prevent attacks but to avenge them. She wonders why her new home brings out increasingly physical emanations. When Cora’s formerly skeptical husband can no longer deny the ghost’s presence, he too must help with the investigation or risk being harmed.
Cora reaches a dilemma, however, once she understands her task. Dealing with the losses of her life and how she handles them, Cora is frightened of what it means to solve a century-old crime and potentially lose her comfortable blanket of otherworldly presence. She must face her own emotional and familial turmoil and come to peace within herself in order to move on and allow the ghost the choice to do so as well.
This story is told in third person through Cora’s voice, as well as a scene or so in her rival’s and her husband’s perspectives and a couple of chapters from the lifetime of the ghost. It is lengthy for a mystery, front-loaded with introspection and a book club's worth of characters from which Cora chooses her sounding board and fellow sleuth. I enjoyed the setting and use of regional history and detail in the story. Those who get a kick out of poltergeist stories will enjoy The Mystery at Sag Bridge.