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Mina Scarletti

The Ghost of Hollow House by Linda Stratmann

The year is 1872 and Mina Scarletti has been invited to Hollow House in Sussex to investigate the strange occurrences that have been troubling its occupants, Mr Honeyacre and his wife, Kitty. With the servants refusing to stay at the house due to sightings of ‘the woman in white’ and unexplained noises, the health of Kitty Honeyacre is beginning to deteriorate. Confirmed sceptic, Mina, knows that with the assistance of her trusted friends Dr. Hamid and Nellie, she can solve the mystery of Hollow House.

The Ghost of Hollow House is the fourth in the Mina Scarletti series and, while it does make references to previous events, it can definitely be read as a standalone. For anyone who hasn’t been introduced to Mina before, she is not exactly your average Victorian heroine. Afflicted with a severe curvature of the spine, the diminutive protagonist has accepted that, unlike most women of her status, she will never marry and have children. She, therefore, has carved out a career writing ghost stories under a male nom de plume, spending her spare time uncovering fraudulent spiritualists.

It was during this era that spiritualism became big business and Linda Stratmann has painted a vivid picture of life at this time. Hollow House is the perfect setting for a ghost story with its mysterious history and cast of characters with secrets to hide. The tension is ramped up even further when bad weather forces the house to be cut off from the rest of the outside world and the strange happenings continue to terrify those in residence.

Mina, once again, encounters her nemesis, spiritualist Arthur Wallace Hope, who brings with him a Mr Beckler, a photographer keen to capture images of spirits. They are a nefarious pairing, Beckler in particular making my skin crawl with his intentions towards Mina. It is also obvious that another character, Mr Stevenson, is not who he says he is, adding to the mistrust and suspicion in the house.

I enjoyed trying to solve the mystery and there are certainly clues to help you along the way. Mina is very impressive in the way she handles the case and I thought the retelling of the story at the end, written by her nom de plume was a great way of ending the book. A great read!

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien and Sapere Books for my copy.

 

An Unquiet Ghost by Linda Stratmann

Cousins George Fernwood and Mary Clifton are engaged to be married but feel that they cannot go through with the wedding until an event from their past has finally been resolved. Twenty years previously, their grandfather died in his bed and it is thought that someone in the family poisoned him. Desperate to find out what really happened, the couple are keen to talk to a medium in order to communicate with their dead grandfather. Knowing that Mina Scarletti has a reputation for unmasking fraudulent psychics, they engage her in assisting in their quest for the truth.

Although I had read some of Linda Stratmann’s Frances Doughty series, I had not yet come across the books featuring Mina Scarletti. This is the third book in the series but I found it could be read as a standalone. Mina is a fascinating character, her scoliosis preventing her from participating in Brighton’s society. Despite her disability, however, she is the epitome of a modern Victorian woman, accepting that she will never marry and writing books published by her family’s publishing house. I admired her tenacity and her ability to use her brainpower to aid her investigations.

The search for a legitimate medium is a fascinating one and I enjoyed reading about the different methods undertaken by these charlatans in order to defraud the bereaved. Like Mina, I found myself searching for ways the ‘readings’ could have been fabricated and was intrigued by how these people were happy to play the ‘long game’ in order to achieve their aim.

Although beyond what Mina has been tasked, she nevertheless becomes interested in solving the murder of Thomas Fernwood. As she is unable to travel a lot due to her scoliosis, some of the research is done via letter. I enjoyed reading the letters that appeared throughout the book and, as well as giving an insight into Mina’s thoughts, it also provides the reader with an understanding of what went on behind Victorian closed doors. I was surprised when the poisoner was revealed although could understand why when the circumstances were explained.

An Unquiet Ghost is perfect for any fans of Victoriana who enjoy a gentle mystery.

With thanks to Caoimhe O’Brien and Sapere Books for my copy of the book.

 

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