A Ghostly Undertakingby Tonya Kappes (Website, Facebook, Twitter)
Series: Ghostly Southern Mysteries #1
Published by Witness on February 24, 2015
Genres: Adult, Crime, Death & Dying, Ghost, Mystery, Mystery & Detective, Paranormal
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I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
A funeral, a ghost, a murder . . . It's all in a day's work for Emma Lee Raines . . .
Bopped on the head from a falling plastic Santa, local undertaker Emma Lee Raines is told she's suffering from “funeral trauma.” It's trauma all right, because the not-so-dearly departed keep talking to her. Take Ruthie Sue Payne—innkeeper, gossip queen, and arch-nemesis of Emma Lee's granny—she's adamant that she didn't just fall down those stairs. She was pushed.
Ruthie has no idea who wanted her pushing up daisies. All she knows is that she can't cross over until the matter is laid to eternal rest. In the land of the living, Emma Lee's high-school crush, Sheriff Jack Henry Ross, isn't ready to rule out foul play. Granny Raines, the widow of Ruthie's ex-husband and co-owner of the Sleepy Hollow Inn, is the prime suspect. Now Emma Lee is stuck playing detective or risk being haunted forever.
I enjoy a good cozy mystery and I especially love paranormal novels, and A Ghostly Undertaking fits the bill in both regards. This is book one in a new series from new-to-me author Tonya Kappes, featuring awkward funeral director Emma Lee Raines who can now see, touch, and hear ghosts thanks to a bonk on the head from a heavy plastic Santa Clause decoration. Now she’s approached by the ghost of Ruthie Sue Payne, her grandmother’s business partner with an Inn that they co-own and manage together, and Ruthie won’t stop pestering Emma Lee because she’s insisting that she didn’t just fall down the stairs accidentally–she was pushed.
Blood is thicker than water, especially when the law thinks your Granny killed her co-owner of the Inn her deceased husband left her…
Emma Lee has an intense sense of loyalty to her grandmother, especially since her Granny left the funeral home business for her and her sister to run. But when the local hot sheriff shows up, asking questions and putting a hold on Ruthie’s funeral, pointing the finger oh so subtly in her grandmother’s direction, Emma Lee can’t just sit back and do nothing. She starts to look in to Ruthie’s death herself–at Ruthie’s pushy request–and she finds that her small town is full of people who can keep a secret, and are doing some things behind closed doors that she’d never thought they’d do. But if it will prove that her grandma is innocent, she’ll work with the sheriff that makes her weak in the knees.
People think you’re weird when you work with the dead, but when you can actually see the dead now…
Emma Lee was always a bit of an outsider since her family ran the funeral home and she then worked there. But when she starts seemingly talking to herself around town, when in reality she’s talking to Ruthie, the small town gossip mill goes berserk: the funeral trauma is in full swing with Emma Lee, and she is full on crazy, according to the town harpies. Emma Lee is loyal, honest, and sweet, but push her family or her, and she’ll push back even harder. The sweet southern girl is fierce when cornered.
The funniest and pushiest dead person I’ve read lately…
A Ghostly Undertaking is full of funny and strange characters, but Ruthie quickly stole my heart. I just love people who say exactly what they think, and she had nothing to lose since she was already dead. Even though she started out spiteful and petty, she quickly grew into a fun, helpful, and genuinely great friend to Emma Lee. I almost didn’t want to see her murderer brought to justice since I wanted her to haunt Emma Lee forever just for her opinion of everyone and her helpful snarky advice.
I give A Ghostly Undertaking a 4.5 out of 5. This fun, quick, quirky book had everything that I expect from a cozy mystery: the odd-ball non-police main character solving the crime, the well-developed side characters that are accused with red herrings galore, the claustrophobic yet picturesque small town setting. Tonya Kappes does an excellent job of laying the foundations of the main characters, letting you get enough of a taste of the back stories and history without exposing everything so there’s room to grow and reveal in future books too, all while keeping this one from being boring or stale.