cover image Grave Expectations

Grave Expectations

Alice Bell. Vintage, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-47063-3

Bell shines in her sharp, funny debut, a supernatural whodunit centered on medium-for-hire Claire Hendricks. Claire and her best friend, Sophie, are headed to a former monastery in the small English town of Wilbourne Major, where Figgy Wellington-Forge, Claire’s university friend, has invited her to entertain the family with her gift. Readers will quickly deduce that Sophie is actually a ghost who serves as Claire’s spirit guide and eavesdrops on her marks to provide information that makes her powers seem more impressive. But Figgy’s plans to hold a séance as a birthday treat for her grandmother go awry when Nana dies suddenly. Her ghost appears to Claire and Sophie to inform them that, while her death was natural, she’s met the ghost of an unknown person inside the house’s library who was recently murdered. Claire decides to help solve the mystery, and enlists some of Figgy’s more trustworthy kin, while heeding Nana’s warning that someone in the family was the killer. The adroit plotting, which cannily plays with mystery tropes, is amply leavened with humor. Fans of the British TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) will be eager for more adventures from Claire and Sophie. Agent: Stevie Finegan, Zeno Literary. (Sept.)