The Last to See Me, by M. Dressler.
She died more than 100 years ago, and haunts a stately old home in a small tourist village in Northern California. Benito used to be a timber town until the trees were all felled and the mills closed; now, it bolsters its faltering economy by promoting itself as a charming tourist destination, a restful and scenic coastal break from San Francisco to the South. The mansion Emma ‘occupies’ was the home of the Lambry family, the original timber barons and uncrowned royalty of the area; now old Alice Lambry has died and her distant heirs, who have no interest in the property, want the place sold.
So far, there has been scant interest – until local agent, ‘timid little Ellen DeWight’ (Emma likes her and hasn’t tried to scare her silly – yet.) brings Mr and Mrs Dane to visit. He is a rich developer, interested only in the land and the house’s position; his wife wants to gut the place, removing all the wonderful architectural features that make the property a treasure, but their whispered plans in the butler’s pantry enrage Emma so much that she locks them in, turns off the lights and starts filling the pantry with water. There. That will teach them a lesson!
And it does. They are almost in a state of collapse (Mrs Dane wet herself!), but Emma reckons without Mr Dane’s zeal and determination to close the deal: he wants that property now more than ever, and hires a ‘ghost cleaner’, the very best, to get rid of her.
Emma had this reader in an iron and ghostly grip as she recounts her tactics to outwit Philip Pratt, the man who states that he was born to eradicate ghosts, shades and phantoms. He is absolutely committed to hunting down and sending Emma off to the local graveyard, where she rightly belongs: she, naturally (or not) resists with all her supernatural might, and as the story progresses we learn the sad circumstances of Emma’s eighteen years of life, and her efforts to remain what she has always striven to be – a free spirit.
Ms Dressler has given us a beautifully written, tightly plotted introduction to her series. I could say I’m dying to read Book Two, but that doesn’t sound right – I’ll look forward to it, instead! FIVE STARS