Book Reviews

Haunted Bookshop Mysteries

Cleo Coyle and the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries. 



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Not for the faint of heart. He will steal yours away.

Jack Shepard

The Ghost and the Stolen Tears (Haunted Bookshop Mystery)

Cozy Mystery, 8th in Series
Publisher: Berkley

Jack Shepard, PI, may have been gunned down decades ago, but his memory hasn’t been ghosted. Back in the 1940s, those same Valentino Teardrops starred in a bizarre case of betrayal and murder. From the look of things, history is about to repeat. Now Jack is back on the job, and Pen is eternally grateful. 

Norma is a modern-day nomad. Living out of her van and teardrop trailer, she revels in self-reliance, solitude, and reading in the glorious peace of nature. Jovial, wise, and scrupulously honest, she’s become an uplifting presence in the little town of Quindicott, Rhode Island, where bookseller Pen is thankful to have her part-time help. But it’s Norma’s other job, working as a housekeeper at the Finch Inn, that gets her into terrible trouble. Norma is accused of stealing jewels from a guest’s room: the legendary Valentino Teardrops, an antique necklace and earring set, inherited by a young socialite. Pen doesn’t believe Norma is guilty of the crime—though the evidence is distressingly strong. And when the spirited Norma vanishes before her arrest, Pen turns to another spirit…


A ghostly good read doesn’t have to limit itself to the Halloween season. Cleo Coyle brings to life a dashing detective (Jack Shepard) and a feisty bookstore owner (Penelope), who work together to solve a local crime. Okay so the detective is a ghost and only Pen can hear the smooth-talking specter. 

In this installment of the addictive series, I was happy to see Jack stretch beyond his ghostly confinement to provide very-much-alive assistance into Pen’s world to aid in a harrowing escapade. The story is full of solid characters, goofy sidekicks (you’ll love the movie game that Brainert and Seymour play), a couple of surprises you won’t see coming, and a lot of heart. 

Each book in the series brings a deeper dive into Jack’s world and his relationship with Pen. I loved spending time in Jack’s decade where the lingo and setting drop the reader firmly into his era. Bringing Pen along through her dreams is skillfully crafted to allow for the suspension of disbelief, and the shock of waking up along with Pen into her reality is evidence of that craft. So turn off the phone and get away from the newsfeed for a while. Take your time and focus on the plot. And just enjoy a good story.

With a touch of his fedora, Jack fades away and leaves me with a sadness that he is not among the living to properly woo our dear protagonist. Maybe he’s waiting for me. 


The Ghost and the Stolen Tears

CLEO COYLE is a pseudonym for Alice Alfonsi, writing in collaboration with her husband, Marc Cerasini. Both are New York Times bestselling authors of the long-running Coffeehouse Mysteries—now celebrating eighteen years in print. They are also authors of the nationally bestselling Haunted Bookshop Mysteries, previously written under the pseudonym Alice Kimberly. Alice has worked as a journalist in Washington, D.C., and New York, and has written popular fiction for adults and children. A former magazine editor, Marc has authored espionage thrillers and nonfiction for adults and children. Alice and Marc are also both bestselling media tie-in writers who have penned properties for Lucasfilm, NBC, Fox, Disney, Imagine, and MGM. They live and work in New York City, where they write independently and together.

The Ghost and the Haunted Portrait (Haunted Bookshop Mystery)

Cozy Mystery, 7th in Series
Publisher: Berkley

Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure and her gumshoe ghost team up to solve the stunning mystery at the heart of a madwoman’s self-portrait in this all new installment from New York Times bestselling author Cleo Coyle.

While gathering a collection of vintage book cover paintings for a special event in her quaint Rhode Island bookshop, Penelope discovers a spooky portrait of a beautiful woman, one who supposedly went mad, according to town gossip. Seymour, the local mailman, falls in love with the haunting image and buys the picture, refusing to part with it, even as fatal accidents befall those around it. Is the canvas cursed? Or is something more sinister at work?

For answers, Pen turns to an otherworldly source: Jack Shepard, PI. Back in the 1940s, Jack cracked a case of a killer cover artist, and (to Pen’s relief) his spirit is willing to help her solve this mystery, even if he and his license did expire decades ago.


Our cat’s nocturnal wanderings had to be curtailed.” Hah! Tail!

Jack is back, and he’s as charming as ever. My sweet ghost pal from the 40s is on the case and helping Penny in present day solve another mystery.

There’s plenty to enjoy in this cozy mystery. You’ll have favorite moments throughout the splattering of character shenanigans, and the business association meeting is pure fun. Publishing scams were brought to light as well as a peek into book cover artwork. But you’ll get distracted and will need to pay attention to the clues cleverly dropped right in front of you. And while present day has enough murder for Pen to be involved in, I especially enjoyed the trip back to Manhattan with Jack to investigate Ruby’s connection across the decades.

I did get to wondering if Jack lingers in Pen’s head without her knowing. Can he pop in at will? Will there ever be a time when Pen won’t want Jack floating around in her head? While I wanted to see more of their togetherness when she went back in time with Jack, this 7th in the series is a delightful read. And Jack’s last line brought a sigh and a hope that maybe there will be more to the gumshoe team in the future.

As they say, Jack is my Shepard, I shall always want…

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller



The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller

Penelope Thornton-McClure and her bookshop’s ghost-in-residence Jack Shepard are back on a new case in this delightful paranormal mystery from New York Times bestselling author Cleo Coyle.

A big bestseller leads to small-town trouble. Bookshop owner Penelope Thornton-McClure didn’t believe in ghosts until she was haunted by the hard-boiled spirit of 1940s private investigator Jack Shepard. Now Jack is back on the job, and Pen is eternally grateful…
After an elegant new customer has a breakdown in her shop, Penelope suspects there is something bogus behind the biggest bestseller of the year. This popular potboiler is so hot that folks in her tiny Rhode Island town are dying to read it–literally. First one customer turns up dead, followed by another mysterious fatality connected to the book, which Pen discovers is more than just fiction. Now with the help of her gumshoe ghost, Pen must solve the real-life cold case behind the bogus bestseller before the killer closes the book on her.

You’re going to like this one. Perfectly fine as a stand-alone as the author sprinkles in a bit of exposition here and there to catch you up on how things came to be. But you will want to go to book one so you can really get to know Pen and Jack and see their journey. I love how the author keeps the two worlds clear with color, lingo, and pacing, separating the present with Jack’s time period. And how Pen gets there, while not technically and fully explained, seems to work and maintains a needed sense of mystery about it. A couple of times the author so cleverly alluded that maybe it really was only Pen’s dream. Which I immediately shrugged off since I’m in love with Jack. There’s humor, flair, and a good solid plot. After hitting the town with Jack and Pen and experiencing the two separate worlds they live in, I felt a subtle undercurrent of bittersweet, almost sad poignancy between the two that leaves me hoping one day they will truly be together.

The Ghost and the Bogus Bestseller