I got Ghost Gifts through the Kindle First program as my February book. I was skeptical about how good this one would be, but this month’s picks were pretty underwhelming and this had really good ratings, so I gave it a go. The book follows Aubrey Ellis, a newspaper journalist for small town Surrey, Massachusetts. Aubrey was raised by her grandmother, Charley, who also happened to own a carnival. Oh also? Occasionally Aubrey sees and talks to dead people. She is able to communicate with spirits who have unfinished business and is often able to help them resolve whatever is tethering them to this life. It’s a blessing and a curse to Aubrey, but by adulthood she feels like she has a pretty good handle on her “gift.” That is, until the 20-year-old missing person/murder case of Missy Flannigan is re-opened by the shocking discovery of the missing girl’s bones. Aubrey is reluctantly drawn into covering the story with a visiting report, Levi St John. In addition to her own tumultuous personal life (she’s nearly divorced – a rift caused by her less-than-truthfulness with her husband about her abilities), she feels a ghost from Levi’s past insistently nudging her to help resolve his issue. Aubrey tries to keep her personal and professional lives separate, but this case is bringing everything together and seems primed for disaster.
There was a lot of good in this book, so I’ll start there. The characters are great: I like Aubrey and I find her struggle with her gift, the positive and the negative aspects, well written and intriguing. Her grandmother, Charley, is probably my favorite. She’s a free-spirited older woman who lives unconventionally, but never falls into a caricature of kookiness. I like the relationship between Charley and Aubrey, it’s loving and familial without being too much. Levi is a decent character, though a little under-developed. I like his interactions with Aubrey, though, and I think she keeps him from being too boring.
We also get flashbacks throughout the story to Missy and the people in her life and I liked her parts quite a bit. This, though, is where I get to parts of the book that didn’t work as well for me. Missy is a sweet-faced 20-year-old who has a lot more going on under the surface than anyone expects or realizes. As we unravel her story, the author clues us in that there are several people in Missy’s life that might have motive to kill her. Sadly, the information we’re given about those people is limited and they’re never really focused on in any great depth, let alone considered viable suspects. Because of this, the suspect pool is pretty narrow and I think Spinella really missed an opportunity for a more clever, in-depth story for Missy.
The ending is where the book really loses it for me; it falls victim to murder mystery cliches and plot holes and man does it fall quickly. Aubrey, a smart and capable woman for 3/4 of the book, and Levi, also smart and capable, suddenly make out of character decisions just to advance the plot.
*SPOILER WARNING* – I whited out the plot points, so swipe over the text to see the spoilers (though I still tried to keep it vague)
Levi and Aubrey get information at the end that supposedly implicates one character, though the plot involves two characters and I fail to see why they exclude that second person at all. Anyways, even though they have been working together and get this information together, Levi runs off to talk to a detective alone… for reasons I guess? The reason being that we need to get Aubrey alone so she can go see the killer by herself, clumsily attempt to extract a confession, and almost get herself killed in the process. Oh and also before she goes, she tries to call Levi, who previously has always been available, and he is just not answer her calls for whatever reason now (again: the reason being because the plot needed it).
If it hadn’t been for the last third of this book, it probably would have been a 4 star rating. As it is though, all the characters drank a big bucket of stupid towards the end and it frustrated me. All in all, it’s a quick read with some good characters, and I love Aubrey’s ghostly interactions. If need a good fluff book and don’t go in with high plot expectations, this isn’t a bad way to pass a few hours.