As much as we may love candy canes, caroling, and Christmas trees, it’s no secret that the holidays can be murder. And in the case of Carol Perry’s newest book, “High Spirits” (November 2022), that would be murder in the first degree.
This second volume of Perry’s Haunted Haven cozy mystery series picks up where “Be My Ghost” (2021) left off. High-energy hotelier Maureen Doherty is ever watchful for new ways to restore the faded glory of Haven House, the somewhat shabby seaside inn she mysteriously inherited. A “Twelve Days of Christmas” holiday film series at the old (and reputedly haunted) Paramount Theater down the block seems like the perfect opportunity for a dinner-and-a-show promotion.
….Until the projectionist is murdered right in the middle of the Barbara Stanwyck classic, “Remember the Night” (which, at that point, everybody certainly will). Now Maureen is back on the case, along with her furry sidekick Finn, bulldog detective Frank Hubbard, and the cast of lovable supporting characters that made “Be My Ghost” so charming.
It’s hard to resist a holiday special, and “High Spirits” delivers plenty of seasonal nostalgia – from “Home Alone” flashbacks to the enormous collection of vintage Christmas ornaments that Maureen discovers packed away in Haven House’s closets. But much of the book’s energy is invested in developing key relationships and plot points. Maureen’s friendship with dreamy bar tender-turned-chef Ted grows as warm and fuzzy as a cup of mulled wine, and we learn a little more about the eccentric Penelope Josephine Gray, from whom Maureen inherited the hotel.
There are also some darker notes that begin to take hold: shadows of spousal abuse in a prominent local family, hints of shady business dealings in Haven, and a mysterious entity known as the Greater Haven Improvement Fund that apparently has “plans” for Maureen. We leave with the sense that Haven, like so many other small towns, is a little less postcard and a little more tabloid than it first appears. Its haunted reputation is well deserved, and Perry’s ghosts are, as ever, fantastic (or phantasmic?) vehicles to express long-buried tales of sorrow, desperation, and joy.
There are some aspects of the plot-thickening in “High Spirits” that some readers may find frustrating, including a few new characters who are introduced, but not fully developed. But I, for one, am eager to see where Perry will take all of this in her next Haven book. What new spirits will she conjure?