Dead Man Talking
by Casey Daniels
(Berkley, $7.99, PG)  ISBN 978-0-425-23074-9
****
A rather eclectic paranormal-meets-mystery-meets-chick-lit (think Ghost Whisperer crossed with Bridget Jones), the latest in Casey Daniels' Pepper Martin series manages to gracefully and humorously cover all of the aforementioned genres.

Still a little shocky from her previous "case" which ended with her getting shot, Pepper's been doing her best to avoid ghosts.  Or ignore them, anyway.  Unfortunately, that's impossible in a cemetery. Yes, her job is as a cemetery tour guide, but now her boss has signed the company up to restore a historic cemetery in a bad part of town. What Ella failed to mentioned when she told Pepper about the project is that it's going to be a reality TV show on the local public broadcasting channel.

Now, a pack of parolees her new "team" and the ghost of a prison warden demanding that she clear his name, Pepper is at it again. The persistent ghost, Jefferson Lamar, was convicted of murder in 1985. Vera, the victim, was his secretary, and according to the press and his police files (kindly provided by Pepper's boyfriend, Quinn), Lamar was likely having an affair with her that apparently ended badly. Lamar swears otherwise. Unfortunately, Lamar and Pepper have the facts against them.

It soon becomes clear that somebody doesn't want Pepper looking into the case. As the show progresses, so do the attempts against Pepper - peaking when one of the members of the crew she's grown very fond of is shot and killed. Pepper's forced to admit that something fishy is going on - even when she realizes Lamar's been lying to her all along.

And, speaking of lies, cop boyfriend Quinn is becoming very disgruntled with them.

Dead Man Talking is very well done. At its heart, it's a whodunnit. In fact, with its absence of bad language and the fact that it's about cons and ghosts, it's almost a cozy. The cast of characters gets a little confusing, as does Pepper's habit of talking about previous cases without elaborating, but all in all the novel was a wonderful addition to the series and generally enjoyable, as long as you're looking for fluff.

--Sarrah Knight


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