The set up of Don of the Dead is really quite clever – Pepper Martin, a tour guide at a Cleveland cemetery, falls and cracks her head on the corner of a mausoleum and is thereafter able to see the spirit of the resident of that mausoleum, one Gus Scarpetti, a one time crime boss who had been gunned down by an unknown assailant thirty years earlier. Seeing him isn’t the real problem, however, as Gus can also talk to Pepper, and demands that she solve his murder, threatening to haunt her until she does so. Even though men (and ghosts) can’t seem to stop staring at her generously endowed chest, there’s more to Pepper than meets the eye. The daughter of a rich doctor who was convicted and sent to prison for fraud, she’s still smarting from her vertiginous fall from grace, the desertion of her much loved fiancee, and the realization that her privileged upbringing hasn’t prepared her for much now that the privilege has been removed.
Egged on by Gus, she reluctantly begins a halting investigation, encountering, along with the usual nefarious suspects, a cute cop and a hunky doctor – this is “chick-lit” mystery after all. With a little luck and a lot of pluck, Pepper’s able to solve the crime, while, in true Evanovich style, leaving the complications of her personal life up in the air, to no doubt be further complicated in subsequent installments of the series. Proving that a cemetery can be a pretty lively place, author Casey Daniels has created a memorable character, a frothy, fast paced read, and the “spirited” beginning to a new mystery series. (Becky S.)