Table of Contents
Praise for the Novels of Juliet Blackwell
If Walls Could Talk
“A riveting tale with a twisting plot, likeable characters, and an ending that will make you shudder [at] how easily something small can get totally out of hand. Juliet Blackwell’s writing is able to mix paranormal experiences with everyday life. [It] leaves you wondering what you just saw out of the corner of your eye . . . a good solid read.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“Ms. Blackwell’s offbeat, humorous book is a fun, light read. . . . Mel makes a likeable heroine. . . . Overall, a terrific blend of suspense and laughter with a dash of the paranormal thrown in makes this a great read.”
“Kudos and high fives to Ms. Blackwell for creating a new set of characters for readers to hang around with as well as a new twist on the ghostly paranormal mystery niche. I can’t wait to see what otherworldly stories Juliet has in mind for us next!”
—Once Upon a Romance Reviews
“Mixes a cozy mystery with supernatural elements and romance for an amazing book.”
“Juliet Blackwell provides a terrific urban fantasy with the opening of the Witchcraft Mystery series.”
—Genre Go Round Reviews
“Solid plotting and realistic but odd characters bring a cozy tone to this wonderful debut . . . looking forward to the second.”
“An excellent blend of mystery, paranormal, and light humor, creating a cozy that is a must-read for anyone with an interest in literature with paranormal elements.”
—The Romance Readers Connection
“It’s a fun story, with romance possibilities with a couple hunky men, terrific vintage clothing, and the enchanting Oscar. But, there is so much more to this book. It has serious depth.”
The Herald News
Praise for the Art Lover’s Mysteries by Juliet Blackwell writing as Hailey Lind
Brush with Death
“Lind deftly combines a smart and witty sleuth with entertaining characters who are all engaged in a fascinating new adventure.”
“If you enjoy Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books, Jonathan Gash’s Lovejoy series, or Ian Pears’ art history mysteries . . . then you will enjoy
“An artfully crafted new mystery series!”
—Tim Myers, Agatha Award–nominated author of
A Mold for Murder
“The art world is murder in this witty and entertaining mystery!”
—Cleo Coyle, national bestselling author of the Coffeehouse Mysteries
Feint of Art
“Annie Kincaid is a wonderful cozy heroine. . . . It’s a rollicking good read.”
ALSO BY JULIET BLACKWELL
Haunted Home Renovation Mysteries
If Walls Could Talk
A Cast-off Coven
Hexes and Hemlines
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First published by Obsidian, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.
First Printing, December 2011
Copyright © Julie Goodson-Lawes, 2011
All rights reserved
ISBN : 978-1-101-55899-7
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To Shay and Suzanne:
You take “neighborly” to a whole different level.
Thank you for being family.
Writing a book takes the support, patience, and knowledge of a huge number of people. I can’t thank you all by name, but I carry you in my heart.
Special thanks are due, as always, to my editor, Kerry Donovan, and to Kristin Lindstrom of Lindstrom Literary Management. And to my incredible network of friends and family, for inspiring my writing, for holding my hand when things get tough, and for always being there. I hope by now you know who you are, and how much I appreciate you! A special shout-out to my long-lost friend Antonio Jimenez—I missed you so much, for too many years. Can’t wait to eat lobster on the beach again, and soon.
To all the Pensfatales, without whom I couldn’t function, and in particular Gigi Pandian, for her courage and humor. I can’t wait for Scotland, when you’ll be well beyond today’s challenges. To Adrienne and Tom Miller, for showing me their cool ghost-busting equipment and checking my old house for ghosts. To Rachael Herron, for cemetery walks and endless plot lunches that devolve into gossip, each and every time. And to Sophie Littlefield . . . there really are no words. Without you I’m sure I would be huddled in a dusty corner somewhere, unable to write. L. G. C. Smith, Lisa Hughey, and Martha Flynn—you guys make this crazy business
, and never fail to inspire me.
To Victoria Laurie, for her wonderful ghost tales, conference hijinks, and encouragement. To Nicole Peeler—looking forward to getting into lots of trouble in the future, professionally, personally . . . in all sorts of ways, from rural Pennsylvania to Scotland! And to Lesa Hol-stine, librarian and book reviewer extraordinaire!
To JC Johnson, who really knows the meaning of providing “helpful critiques”—thank you so much for your time and suggestions, and for your steadfast love of reading and your passion for the written word. To Carolyn Lawes, for all the ideas, jokes, and very tactful suggestions, even when I’m catatonic from deadline pressures.
And finally . . . to Sam-the-brown-dog, we miss you so much, especially “single bark.” Thanks for sticking around in ghost form.
y father always used to say: There’s nothing quite like a protracted remodel to test a person’s sanity.
Still, one thing was very clear to me: The handprints on the ceiling were real, not a product of my imagination.
My mind cast about for a way to explain them to my clients. They weren’t flat, as if someone had used their hands to steady themselves while teetering atop scaffolding or a tall ladder. Rather, it looked like someone had dragged five fingers along the surface of the ceiling’s wet plaster or paint, resulting in a subtle chicken-scratch pattern fanning out in concentric circles around the hole for the light fixture.
The ceiling had been perfectly blank yesterday.
As with so much of what was happening on this job site, it was . . . disturbing.
My clients, Katenka and Jim Daley, stood with me amidst the construction debris and dust. The workers had finished for the day, and the house was quiet save for the loud cooing of eleven-month-old Quinn, who squirmed like a baby kangaroo in a padded pouch slung across his father’s stomach.
We gazed up at the twelve-foot-high coffered ceiling of what would be an elegant dining room as soon as the walls and ceiling were patched and painted, the antique light fixtures rewired and remounted, and the inlaid wood floors sanded and stained. The Daleys’ home, an 1890s Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco’s Cow Hollow neighborhood, was structurally sound—a pleasant surprise, rare for structures from that era—but decades of operating as the Cheshire Inn, a boardinghouse for drifters, down-at-the-heels bachelors, and homeless cats had left their mark. The home’s bones were exquisite, but the rest required plenty of renovation, repair, and ornamentation. Queen Anne Victorians were celebrated for their elaborate decorative designs and lavish “gingerbread” details.
This is where I come in. Mel Turner, General Contractor, Jill of All Trades.
But at the moment, I feared my crew and I weren’t the only entities at work within the ornate halls and chambers of the historic house. I had been trying—and failing—to ignore or explain away the series of strange events that had plagued the project from its inception: lumber and sheetrock disappearing from one spot and then showing up in another; work gloves and safety goggles
one moment and gone the next; rusty old dead bolts locking and unlocking though the keys had long since been lost; footsteps resonating overhead when no one was upstairs. A handful of workers had already walked off the job, unwilling to deal with the unexplained occurrences.