Ellie Haskell receives a message from friends of her deceased grandmother, saying the ghost has something to tell her. When she does go and see them, she learns far more than she expected to about her own family's past.
I feel like I cheated, reading this book second out of all the Ellie Haskell books. I'm guessing that the early death of Ellie's mother was mentioned more than once in the previous nine books, and only now is Dorothy Haskell getting around to explaining what happened. Ten books is a long time to wait, yet I sort of jumped the line here. Still, it was a great read.
The plot drew me in right from the start. Three old women say that Ellie's grandmother has a message for her, yet she's been dead for decades. As soon as Ellie arrives at their monstrous old home, the murder and mayhem begin. It's got all the fun hallmarks of the old castle mysteries: poison, family secrets, secret passageways, yet those tropes have been rewoven into a modern tale that is entirely enjoyable to read. The only part that was a little off was the Daddy Warbucksian ending, but from what I can tell of this series, each book does its faithful part in actually changing the characters' lives.
Oh, the characters were lovely. Aside from a tendency to confuse two of the "bridesmaids", I had no trouble visualizing each character. That made it all too easy to figure out who the killer was early on, unfortunately. But in this book, that wasn't so bad, as much of the plot revolved around mysterious family history, rather than it being entirely about murder.
The writing fell neatly between heavy and light, containing moments of humor as well as serious and tense episodes. The subplot involving Mrs. Malloy was nearly entirely separate in this book, but the tie-ins were perfect and necessary, and her plot as it fit into the larger one was excellently done.
4 of 5 stars.