The Ghost Orchid

Carol Goodman, Author . Ballantine $24.95 (336p) ISBN 978-0-345-46213-8

An isolated Victorian mansion in upstate New York is the backdrop for Goodman's latest literary mystery (after The Drowning Tree ), which stars a debut novelist and her fellow residents at the artists' retreat Bosco. Ellis Brooks has been accepted to Bosco primarily because her first novel is to be a fictional account of the mansion's mysterious past; while there will be no deaths during her stay, there's spookiness aplenty, as well as several 1893 murders still begging resolution. Goodman's narrative alternates between Ellis's first-person present and 1893. Coincidentally—or not—two of Bosco's other guests are also working on projects related to the mansion. But they turn out to be little more than convenient accessories as Ellis, the daughter of a psychic (and possessor of certain powers of her own), unlocks clue after mystical clue to secrets long buried by the mansion's original owners. As great a player as any is the mansion itself and its creepy (and possibly haunted) gardens. Is this an updated Victorian drawing room mystery or a romance novel/crime fiction–cum–ghost story? Never mind. Enjoy the atmosphere. And enjoy the ride; its twists and turns mesmerize, even if they don't surprise. Agent, Loretta Barrett . (Feb.)