In 1899, a séance was held at the Morley Mansion in Boston, Massachusetts. The millionaire Roderick Morley was desperate to contact his murdered friend. He hoped to clear himself of suspicion by identifying the true killer. The séance went horribly wrong, though, and Morley left the room—to commit suicide.
By 1903, the Morley Mansion was deemed haunted! The new owner hired Vera Van Slyke, an odd but brilliant ghost hunter. With her assistant, Lucille Parsell, Vera quickly realized that, to banish the ghost, the two would have to solve the murder.
But a fugitive murderer wasn’t the only shadow cast over the Morley Mansion. A fake medium had performed at that séance, a shame-ridden woman who called herself: “Lucille Parsell.”
And, sometimes, guilt is a ghost that can never be banished.
$15.99, trade paperback, 274 pages
The Second in the Series, But…
If you’re new to the Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries series, Guilt Is a Ghost is a good book to read first. I call it the “synquel” to Help for the Haunted: A Decade of Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries. It’s not a prequel — and it’s not a sequel — because the two books overlap in terms of time. In other words, they’re companion volumes. You can start with either one.
That said, Guilt Is a Ghost gives a full account of the meeting between Vera and her “Dr. Watson,” Ludmila Prášilová (aka Lucille Parsell). It then jumps over the first four cases in Help for the Haunted as the ghost-hunting duo return to the house where they met. (It’s haunted now, you see, and their history there is mingled with that haunting!) While Help for the Haunted is a “composite novel,” comprised of thirteen distinct yet interwoven adventures, Guilt Is a Ghost is a more traditional novel featuring a single, complex investigation.
Loren Rhoads interviewed me about Guilt Is a Ghost as part of her 5 Questions series. Click here to read that. Loren is also an accomplished author, whose books are well-worth considering for purchase. (I especially recommend her global tour of graveyards, 199 Cemeteries to See Before You Die.) You’ll find details about her books at the same site.
The History behind the Hauntings
Much of the fun of Guilt Is a Ghost is the very real history woven into it. Two of the main characters, Harvard professor William James and Chief Inspector William B. Watts were real people as were the criminal cases Watts mentions. The books named can all be found, often online (though, sadly, I’ve never been able to find a copy of Vera’s Spirits Shouldn’t Sneeze: A Decade of Debunking Mediums). The layout of Boston’s streets is true to 1903. Eerily, the history of alleged witches in Salem and in Tennessee is equally verifiable!
I review the history underlying the Vera Van Slyke Ghostly Mysteries series — and provide links to online documents confirming it — on a page titled The Life and Ghosts of Vera Van Slyke. It’s an excellent way to discover what Vera and Lida’s adventures are about, or if you’ve already read them, it’s an interesting “appendix”!