A Babe In Ghostland
Megan Barrows is an antique store owner with an interesting talent: she can “feel” the stories of the treasures she collects and sells. Once upon a time she had a more active role in chasing down the paranormal, but a bad experience left her burned and more or less in retirement. Case Lambert is a real estate prospector who on a whim buys an old, abandoned house with a strange story. Though he is used to restoring and then reselling properties, he wants this old Queen Anne beauty for himself. The problem is, there are presences in the house who seem to want something different. Case is a rational person; he doesn’t believe in ghosts. But there are too many unexplained things happening in his dilapidated mansion to explain rationally. So he hires Eric, a paranormal investigator, to get to the bottom of things, and Eric recommends Megan as additional help.
Megan has better things to do than chase down presences that are very possibly malignant. But her store isn’t much of a money maker and Case offers her the chance to pick from the myriad of period pieces stored in his house’s attic if she can bring his situation to a positive resolution. Tempted by the money and by Case’s attractiveness, Megan moves into the mansion, and her evenings suddenly get a lot more exciting.
Cach works with a very spare cast here, made up of Megan, Chase, Eric, and a few, brief ghostly appearances. Since the human characters aren’t many, she has more time to flesh out the house as a character in its own right. And it’s pretty creepy. Architecturally, it’s complex and tumble-down, but historically there’s even more of interest. Megan’s gift allows her to see glimpses of what might have happened there, enough to generate a spooky atmosphere that kept me turning the pages.
It’s hard to say exactly what Cach’s gift is. Her prose is straightforward with touches of humor here and there; it’s certainly not literary or stylized. Yet her characters always seem un-cliché. They tend to have little flaws or characteristics that keep them recognizably human. Here, Megan is a medium, but she’s not remotely flighty, emotional, or New Age-y. She thinks she has a gift, but she can’t explain it or how it works. She’s a rationalist, just one who has to grapple with a slightly different reality than the one the rest of us experience. Case is a less complex character, but at least he has an interesting line of work. And Eric is the antagonist, but there’s nothing villainous about him – he’s just obsessed with the paranormal and getting to the bottom of what it all means.
The romance here isn’t entirely convincing, however. The action of the story lasts about a week, and Megan and Chase are strangers before that. While they are both nice people and have some chemistry, that’s not enough for their true love for each other to seem persuasive.
A Babe in Ghostland zipped right along for its first two-thirds, keeping me entertained and curious about the house’s mysteries. Then the story went in a zanier direction than I was expecting or wanting and the spookiness dissipated. However, this was a fun read, overall, and one I can recommend without reservation.