Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian

First Line: The woman frolicking in the waves was underdressed for November, even for a ghost.

A television reporter of the paranormal with her own show, The Whitecastle Report, Emma Whitecastle can't even have a romantic weekend on Catalina Island with her boyfriend Phil Bowers without running into a ghost or two. This time it's bikini-clad Tessa North, a Hollywood starlet who died on Catalina shortly after Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in 1968. To make matters worse, Tessa refuses to cross over to the other side because Curtis promised to come back for her and she's waiting for him.  With the spectral help of her great-great-great-grandmother Ish Reynolds (AKA Granny Apples), Emma begins digging into Tessa's life and the circumstances of her death. Her investigation leads her right to her former father-in-law, legendary Hollywood director and producer George Whitecastle.

In this second Granny Apples mystery, author Sue Ann Jaffarian hooked my interest immediately with the poignant tale of Tessa North. Emma Whitecastle is a level-headed, intelligent woman who's recently learned that she can see and talk to ghosts, and her newfound talent has led to a career in television. In The Whitecastle Report, Emma tries to give as unbiased an accounting of each situation as possible, never divulging her ability. As an investigative reporter, she knows how to start digging in the archives to find the facts she needs. As she slowly unravels the facts of Tessa's brief life, Jaffarian spins a tale of politics and the Kennedys, of romance and parties and the Hollywood high life of the big names who attract schools of beautiful starlets. That this case also touches closely on the lives of Emma's former in-laws only gives it more emotional punch.

It was interesting for me to see that Granny Apples takes a backseat in this book-- at least most of the time. I have to admit that I really didn't miss her all that much because she tends to be cantankerous and easy to take offense. (I have a low tolerance of such folks.) Fortunately she seems to have been mesmerized by old television programs, and while those sitcoms and cop shows are warping her perspective and her vocabulary, I foresee Emma being forced to do some damage control.  (At least have Granny watch Inspector Morse instead of the drek she has been, Emma!) 

In the two books of this series thus far, I see Jaffarian's trademark humor and sensitivity. Even though this is a paranormal series, she's created down-to-earth characters and California history-flavored plots that are a delight to sink into. I enjoy a paranormal mystery now and again, as long as they don't go too over the top. Sue Ann Jaffarian knows just how I like them. Will I be visiting Emma Whitecastle again? You better believe it!

Ghost in the Polka Dot Bikini by Sue Ann Jaffarian
ISBN: 9780738713823
Midnight Ink © 2011
Paperback, 298 pages

Cozy Mystery/Paranormal, #2 Granny Apples mystery
Rating: B+
Source: Paperback Swap 


  1. Cathy - OK, I'm still not at all convinced by the whole paranormal/ghost aspect. But still, the underlying mystery here does sound interesting. And having been to Catalina Island myself, I picked up on the setting right away. Hmm........

    1. Every time I read a mystery with paranormal elements, I think of you, Margot!


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