Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Karen White - The House on Tradd Street

Practical Melanie Middleton hates to admit she can see ghosts. But she's going to have to accept it. An old man she recently met has died, leaving her his historic Tradd Street home, complete with housekeeper, dog—and a family of ghosts anxious to tell her their secrets.
Enter Jack Trenholm, a gorgeous writer obsessed with unsolved mysteries. He has reason to believe that diamonds from the Confederate Treasury are hidden in the house. So he turns the charm on with Melanie, only to discover he's the smitten one...
It turns out Jack's search has caught the attention of a malevolent ghost. Now, Jack and Melanie must unravel a mystery of passion, heartbreak—and even murder.

Comment: I've had this book to read for several years and finally decided to go for it, even though I had seen some less than good comments about it. Still, it ended up being a good read for me.

 In this book we meet Melanie Middleton, a 39 year old woman who has always been able to see ghosts, although she has tried hard to ignore that. She works in real estate and is surprised when an old man dies and leaves her the house she assumed he wanted to list when he contacted her. It turns out, there is a connection between their families and Melanie now has a decision to make, on whether she wants to keep the house, meaning renovations, or sell it. Since there 's a clause forbidding her from selling until one years has passed, she decides to renovate and that is how Jack Trenholm comes to the picture. He wants to write a book about an old case related to the parents of the old man who left the house to Melanie and by cooperating, he hopes to discover enough information for the book. However, the ghost keep up and Melanie realizes she needs to give them peace, but how can she find out what they need to know to move on?

How not to think about that TV show starring Jennifer Love Hewitt when thinking about the premise of this book? I've seen several episodes and I immediately thought of it when I started reading this book. Melanie isn't conscientiously helping ghosts crossing over but she sees them and that has affected her life, even though she tried that it wouldn't. In fact, part of the drama is precisely how this has affected her relationship with her mother and how they stopped talking.

Melanie is a fascinating character, she is vulnerable but plays the role of professional well enough and I could sympathize with her and the thoughts she had regarding her estranged mother, the complicated relationship with an alcoholic father, her own expectation of what her life is and what was supposed to be, among other things. She is a modern southern woman but we can see between the lines how she longs for stability, how she wants to feel in control of what happens... I wonder if the goal isn't to allow her to be free of those self impositions, both by having her deal with her family issues and the ghost seeing thing.

I'd say the conflict in this novel is mostly internal, low key, making this fall into "cozy mystery" category, according to my POV. I say this because the mystery isn't too complicated or complex, it actually has a quiet type of resolution, and a good part of the story is focused on reuniting clues, yes, but mainly on developing the characters' personalities and decisions depending on the situations they have to face. I liked the tone and quietness of the story, the eye for small details but I can see how this would feel too slow for some readers.

The romance is only hinted at. Jack is also a good character as protagonist, he has his issues and secrets but his personality is a little more confident and almost bubblier than Melanie's, so in this regard I think they make for a good couple. He is also just a few years younger, and this aspect is addressed lightly, which I found good. The dynamic between them is now one of attraction but the focus is still on establishing them as friends. I can only assume the relationship will develop as the plot does too, throughout the following books.

The mystery, as I've said, isn't too complicated, in fact at some point is starts to become a little easy to imagine the why, not just the how and even that was something rather predictable. The fun here, I'd say, isn't as much the mystery itself but how the protagonists connect the dots until they can explain it. In the end, this brought closure to the ghosts and we see them go in peace. Again, I can imagine this is the route things will go, one or two cases for Melanie to think about while in her real estate work - conveniently mostly with older houses - while dealing with personal stuff.

I think this book is the kind one reads at leisure while sipping tea, it's not something too complex or too dramatic, but not too obvious. I can't explain well, it stays in the middle, rather dependable, not too exciting but it worked out well for me.
I already bought the second book so I'm feeling curious enough to keep going.
Grade: 8/10

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