Source: supplied by publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: mystery, paranormal, urban fantasy
Series: Ishmael Jones #7
Published by Severn House on April 30, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository, Bookshop.org
A wedding. A murder. A 200-year-old curse: Ishmael Jones is plunged into a baffling investigation when he answers an old friend's call for help.
Although he hasn't seen Robert Bergin for 40 years, Ishmael feels duty bound to respond when his old friend calls for help. Robert's daughter Gillian is about to be married, and he is afraid she'll fall prey to the ancient family curse.
Arriving in rural Yorkshire, Ishmael and his partner Penny learn that the vicar who was to perform the ceremony has been found dead in the church, hanging from his own bell rope. With no clues, no evidence and no known motive, many locals believe the curse is responsible. Or is someone just using it as a smokescreen for murder? With the wedding due to take place the following day, Ishmael has just a few hours to uncover the truth.
But his investigations are hampered by sudden flashes of memory: memories of the time before he was human. What is it Ishmael's former self is trying to tell him ... ?
I pulled this one from somewhere in the midst of the virtually towering TBR pile because I finished a book in one of this author’s other series for a Library Journal review and realized that I was still in the mood for his particular brand of snark and that I wasn’t caught up to Ishmael Jones yet.
So here we are. Or rather, there Ishmael Jones and his partner Penny Belcourt are, in another play on a country house ghost story. One in which the ghost may not be real, but there really is something out to get Ishmael, Penny, and whoever either invited them or whom they need to protect from something that has gone loudly, seriously and with malice very much aforethought bump in the night.
Ishmael’s been invited to a wedding in Bradenford, Yorkshire, a rural town he’s never been to before and hopes never to be again even before the mess of this case.
The thing about Ishmael – well, honestly there are a LOT of things about Ishmael, most of which Penny Belcourt knows (because they met on a case in their first adventure, The Dark Side of the Road). Ishmael and now Penny work for a mysterious organization rather coyly named The Organization because Ishmael needs something that clandestine to hide him from all the ubiquitous security devices and agencies that have cropped up all over the world since he crash-landed his UFO in 1963. And hasn’t aged a day since.
He looks human because his ship fixed that before it went defunct. But it didn’t do a perfect job. It’s not just the lack of aging, it also locked away all his memories of who and what he was before.
But this is a case that seems designed to bring back more of his past than he has any desire to meet. Both his past passing for human AND his past as an alien monster. He’s not even sure which reveal is going to be worse.
Still, he and Penny come to Bradenford because he owes an old colleague more than he can ever repay. Even if his attempt at that repayment is going to reveal at least some of the secrets he’s been keeping. Because it’s been 40 years since Ishmael and Robert Bergin have met. Bergin shows every single one of those years – while Ishmael displays precisely none.
But Bergin reluctantly recognizes that he’s not the man he used to be, while Ishmael still very much is. And that’s exactly who Bergin needs, a skilled operator used to dealing with all the terrible and secret things that no one wants to admit exist.
There’s a curse on the Bergin family and it has reached out from the past to grab his daughter and everyone involved with her wedding to an actor who probably isn’t nearly good enough for her.
But no one deserves to get sliced to pieces by some monster with fangs, claws and a 200-year-old vendetta.
It’s up to Ishmael and Penny to figure out whether there really is a curse – or just someone taking advantage of the old legends for grisly purposes of their own.
Escape Rating B: This turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. The author is very much an acquired taste – but one I acquired so long ago that when I get the craving nothing else will do.
What brings me back over and over is the snarkitude. Whoever the protagonist is in one of his series, they are all cut from the same snarky, wry, sarcastic cloth, thinking all the things we wish we’d thought at the time, making all the smart-assed observations – and still managing to get the dirty job done no matter who they piss off along the way.
Because there’s always someone – and usually multiples.
Part of what makes Ishmael Jones in particular so interesting are the built-in ironies of the whole setup. Ishmael is an alien investigating weird shit who doesn’t believe in demons, ghosts, spirits or any of the other psychic phenomena that the people he’s investigating are generally desperate to blame for whatever has gone wrong. He knows there’s weird shit out there, but he’s very much aware that there’s always a human agency behind it. Every once in a while, it’s a human agency he used to work for.
From Ishmael’s perspective, this is a story about his own past coming back to bite him. Both in the sense that he learns stuff he still didn’t want to know about his old friend Bergin and their mutual employer, but also because he’s feeling like his old identity is emerging from the shadows he’s kept it buried in for almost 60 years. He’s afraid of his own past and his inability to control it because Ishmael is the persona that Penny loves and he never wants to lose that.
But this is also a murder-mystery. Everyone in town wants it to be the old curse because no one wants to think there’s a brutal murderer roaming their peaceful little town. A mysterious curse brings tourists while a rampaging mundane murderer will drive everyone away. At least it ought to.
I have mixed feelings about the way the murders get solved. It could be interpreted as a bit of a cheap shot that got redeemed at the end with a clever twist. You’ll have to decide for yourself.
Howsomever, I enjoyed my journey with Ishmael and Penny, so I’ll be back to see how Ishmael’s reconciliation between his past and his present continues in Night Train to Murder the next time I have a taste for extreme snarkitude blended with murder.