Melanie Middleton and Jack Trenholm, that quarrelsome investigative duo is back, and in between falling in love or maybe just getting on each other’s last nerve, they have another mystery to solve. Melanie’s mother, from whom Melanie has been estranged since childhood, has returned from living overseas and wants to buy her own mother’s old home on Legare Street and warn Melanie of the grave danger that surrounds her. Melanie’s mother claims that she has always had her best interests at heart, but among other things, Melanie is still hurt by her abandonment and is suspicious now because she seems to know more than she will say about the strange goings on in the Legare Street house. It remains to be seen is if she can put aside differences with her mother long enough to save both their lives from ghostly presences.
Karen White has created an engaging yet thoroughly frustrating twosome with would be lovers, Melanie and Jack. What’s so appealing about them is that their characterization is truthfully rooted in the defenses and coping mechanisms they each have formed due to painful events from their past. There is something a bit endearing about watching Melanie trying to keep control of a life that she used to be able to manage through careful and rigid planning. With Jack, and her family and friends trying to help her restore old houses and solve old mysteries, the days of order are gone forever. I was happy to see that best friend, and ever questionably dressed Dr. Sophie Wallen was back along with her “boyfriend”. They were great sources of comic relief. I also enjoyed the interaction that both Jack and Melanie had with former lovers more than how they interacted with each other, especially since any gains that they had previously made in their relationship seemed to have vanished.
While Jack and Melanie tried my patience, I did really love all of the research that went into this novel and the descriptions of the old houses, their restoration and the history and practices of the people who settled and became South Carolina’s most illustrious families. I was particularly interested in the “wreckers”, people who intentionally shined lights at ships and directed them into dangerous and rock waters where they killed the passengers on board and stole their cargo. The ghost story kept me guessing until nearly the end, and the ending clearly paves the way for the next in the series, and it seems that it delve more deeply into Jack’s past.
Both the House on Tradd Street and The Girl on Legare Street walk the line of being fun and well written mystery/ghost stories while still exploring the more serious issues of abandonment and alcoholism. I might not be able to continue with Melanie and Jack because their relationship just frustrates me to no end, but I enjoy White’s writing and I am looking forward to the new book, On Folly Beach, that she mentioned when I interviewed her earlier this month (read Karen White’s interview).