My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Somehow I missed the words 'ghostly roommate' in the blurb when I put in to win this book from Goodreads (and win I did but it doesn't influence my opinion) so I was surprised to see a ghost. I love ghosts so it was a pleasant surprise. I have to say I didn't read book one or two so I was missing a little but not much (which is the great thing about mystery series) background info.
It opens with a bang. Stella, the newish fire chief of Sweet Pepper TN, is facing off with Bob Floyd over the cabin she lives in, as in he's there with a bulldozer saying he bought the property and plans to send Eric Gamlyn to his final rest. Part of that missing info, for me, was Bob. I learned later that in an early book Stella used the threat of Eric's ghost (long reputed to be tied to this cabin, his home when he died young forty years ago) against Bob. It would have been nice to know that earlier because Bob is so over the top crazy about destroying the cabin (a recurring theme in the book) that I wanted to know what was reducing this man to tears and insane actions.
Eric and Stella make a discovery of their own when she takes his old badge to his memorial ceremony. They are dedicating a statue to him. Turns out that Eric isn't bound to the fire station and cabin alone (which opens up a lot of doors for the authors).
As for the mystery part, Barney Fulk, former representative, has been found dead in his house. There was a small explosion as well. Stella has to investigate it along with arson investigator, Gail. However, both women find themselves in danger as the killer doesn't want the truth to be known.
The book has two common cozy tropes, one I like and one I don't. The amateur detective (and in this case, it's very nice to see the amateur being someone tangentially associated with investigating by nature, Stella being a fire fighter and not say a chef or something), being friends/romantically tied to an actual detective is the trope that works for me. In this case, it's John, a detective but honestly I didn't think too much of this character. He hates her wealthy grandfather who owns most of the town and blames him (and occasionally her) for his father's death. It makes for an awkward relationship. The trope that doesn't work for me is the 'the police chief hates the amateur' trope and that is here too. However, this seems to work itself organically by the end which is nice because I want to see more of this series and that trope would slow me up on getting the next book.
There are plenty of other things going on. For one, the fire prompts Stella and her volunteer fire brigade to search for a fire boat because of the wealthy homes on the lake. Stella being wrangled into finding recipes for the next Sweet Pepper festival and lastly the one thing that did annoy me after a while: the line of guys trying to date Stella. This got old fast.
I can see why Stella is realizing John might not be the man for her but there are just about one or two too many men and too much time spent on this. One thing is clear thoug, Eric might be dead but he still has a heart.
Eric is the most solid ghost I've seen in a while. He does all Stella's cooking (can I borrow him? Okay I cook but I need someone willing to clean...). He can manipulate his environment well but doesn't get boundaries or the changing roles of women in the last forty years. However, he is very pro-Stella as a fire chief.
I enjoyed this a lot. There's humor and a bit of, well I don't want to call it light heartedness but compared to the grisly police procedurals out there it is. I would like to see more. One word of warning though. This did finish up the mystery but the final chapter starts what will be the next book so it ends on a cliffhanger. I get annoyed about things like that but it probably won't bother some.
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