One Night in Drake Mansion (Skeptic Detective Book 1) by Channing Whitaker – a #BookReview – Ghost Thriller

“Apophenia is a psychological phenomenon in which human beings tend to interpret random stimuli as being significant.”

Book Blurb:

A haunted mansion turned reality TV set. Now, which of the contestants will scream the truth first?

One Night in Drake Mansion by Channing WhitakerAmateur sleuth Harlan Holt only believes in cold hard facts. So when he’s cast for a supernatural reality show, he’s determined to disprove an 80-year-old spooky mystery and demystify the other contestant’s ghostly superstitions. And soon Holt is pitched into the rundown residence where a mysterious immortal magician is rumored to roam…

Along with a psychic, a ghost hunter, and a Hollywood scream queen, he sets off in search of clues in the race to unravel the decades-old murder. But when objects start flying across the room and he nearly gets killed, even Holt struggles for a scientific explanation of the strange phenomena.

Can Holt solve the case before the house claims another victim?

One Night in Drake Mansion is the first book in the intriguing Skeptic Detective mystery series. If you like good old-fashioned whodunits, clever heroes, and unpredictable twists and turns, then you’ll love Channing Whitaker’s original tale. 

My Review:

Well, we’ve all done the ghost mysteries in the old, abandoned, and haunted mansion. But not like this. This one comes complete with lights, camera, action!

This is one of those that don’t necessarily hook you from page one–must have patience. The “skeptic detective” is protagonist Ph.D. candidate Harlan Holt. He is all about science and for him, everything has a reasonable scientific explanation. He is closely acquainted with Genevieve (Vieve), an aspiring medical student.

One Night in Drake Mansion by Channing WhitakerThe premise, however, is not just about spending the night in a haunted house. It’s a reality TV show with crews, trucks, equipment, lights, and sound following every nuance of the contestants all hoping to win at least a portion of the promised million dollars. There is also an actress, a paranormal investigator, and a medium.

The Vinton Drake family of five and their guest Malvern Kamrar, a renowned magician all disappear one evening without a trace. There have been unexplained activities at the site for more than eighty years including sounds and sightings of apparitions in the upper windows of the mansion. In addition to surviving the night, they are hoping to uncover the real story of the disappearance and in this quest has Drake’s journal which may help provide some answers.

It doesn’t take long for Harlan to begin his investigation, poking into all the rooms. It rings so true of those old movies where the assembled gather in candlelight to provide their own field of expertise and exchange intel. The support characters are more two-dimensional but provide an acerbic wit and depth to the gathering offering theories based on their experiences.

ghost image by ClipArtNot just ghost hunting (WHO yah gonna call…), but POV switches to the crew manager and discussions of technology while filming, zooming in on-camera one or whichever is closest to the action. Remember, first it’s a reality TV show–ratings are where it’s at. Second–if they can figure out whether there are reasonable explanations for the manifestations that’s fine, but really, wouldn’t they rather have something sensational? RATINGS, people! And oh yes, things go way beyond your simple ghost hunting, haunted mansion storyline. Complex, tension-filled, things start happening. Is there a scientific explanation or is it really haunted?

The author is quite the storyteller and the well-plotted narrative complicated, multi-layered. You’ll never guess in a million years the conclusion. Wow, I just had to shake my head. I did NOT see that happening or even begin to fathom the double-whammy coming at me. I think the author had a chuckle or two knowing what he got over the reader. ACK! But I did have a quibble or two–the protagonist, while better developed–could not engage with either him or Vieve and must admit to having my attention flag a few times. Then–it heated up…

So completely unique and the first in the series that I can imagine is quite compelling. If you enjoy ghost stories, paranormal mysteries, you’ll likely enjoy this one. We received from Amazon with no expectation of a review and this is my honest opinion. Recommended.

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Book Details:

Genre: Ghost Mysteries, Paranormal Suspense, Ghost Thriller
Publisher: Off Speed Press
ASIN: B07DP7HDZ1
Print Length: 294 pages
Publication Date: June 11, 2018
Source: Free from Amazon
Title Link: One Night in Drake Mansion

Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars 4-stars

Channing Whitaker - authorThe Author: Channing Whitaker is a novelist, screenwriter, and filmmaker originally hailing from Centerville, Iowa. An alum of Indian Hills Community College, Channing went on to study cinema, screenwriting, literature, and mathematics at the University of Iowa. His college years were also spent tending bar and in bar security, which he considers a valuable study of humanity, and an indispensable supplement to his formal education.

Post graduation, Channing began his career in the production of television news, independent films, and commercial videos, as well as writing for websites, corporate media, and advertising. His career has taken Channing from Iowa to Texas, Alaska, Oklahoma, and to California where he currently resides.

Channing is a fan of many media forms and genres. He considers himself a storyteller foremost and works in multiple media and genres himself. Channing’s artistic influences include Trevanian, Gene Roddenberry, Kurt Vonnegut, Jim Jarmusch, and Robert Altman, though he credits his late father, a psychology professor, with profoundly impacting his approach to the deep, conflicted, and multifaceted characters which drive his stories.

In his home life, Channing is a father of two, a sports lover, and a real-life space exploration enthusiast.

Channing is among a small subset of writers who are also dyslexic. He considers learning to overcome the challenges of this diagnosis to have aided him in persevering amid the rejection-filled, uncertain, and competitive fields of writing and screenwriting.

©2020 V Williams V Williams

Verse and Vengeance: A Magical Bookshop Mystery by Amanda Flower – a #BookReview

Wouldn’t you love to visit this most unusual bookshop!

Verse and Vengeance by Amanda FlowerBook Blurb:

With the help of Walt Whitman’s works, magical bookshop owner Violet Waverly puts her pedal to the metal to sleuth a bicycle-race murder that tests her mettle.

A bicycle race is not Charming Books proprietor Violet Waverly’s idea of a pleasant pastime. But police chief David Rainwater wheelie wants them to enter the Tour de Cascade as a couple, so she reluctantly consents.

The Tour de Cascade is the brainchild of Violet’s Grandma Daisy. The race is a fundraiser to build the Cascade Springs Underground Railroad Museum. But not everyone in this Niagara Region village supports the race. As if the bike race weren’t tiring enough, pesky private investigator Joel Redding is snooping around Charming Books. It takes all of Violet’s and Grandma Daisy’s ingenuity to keep Redding from discovering the shop’s magical essence–which communicates with Violet through books.

When Redding perishes in an accident during the race, David discovers that the brake line of the private eye’s bike was cut. Worse, Violet tops his list of suspects. As Emerson the tuxedo cat and resident crow Faulkner look on, Charming Books steers Violet to the works of Walt Whitman to solve the crime. But no other names ring a bell as culprits, and as David’s investigation picks up speed, Violet will have to get in gear to clear her name.

My Review:

Verse and Vengeance by Amanda FlowerProtagonist Violet Waverly is “Caretaker” of the magical birch tree located inside the Charming Books bookshop. Her grandmother, Daisy, also works in the bookshop when she is not fulfilling her duties as the new mayor of Cascade Springs. She has begun a project to provide an Underground Railroad Museum in the village hall. Also prominently featured are Faulkner the resident talking crow who lives in the branches of the tree and Emerson, the black and white tuxedo cat. The fourth in the series and my second, I’ve had no problem reading each entry as a standalone.

Grandma Daisy has urged both Violet and her boyfriend, police chief, David Rainwater, to ride in the Tour de Cascade, a major event meant to provide construction funds for her project, but before the ride is completed, Violet comes upon the fatal accident of private investigator Joel Redding. The shop’s magical “essence,” quietly deposits hints to her about the murder in the works by Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass.

Violet is still not completely confident of David and won’t divulge her secrets re the bookshop. There is one major perp which Violet steadfastly refuses to believe and works to get to the bottom of who and why. She is a no-nonsense, direct question type of amateur sleuth and there are twists and turns in this well-plotted mystery. The narrative proceeds at an even pace and the fictitious setting of the small tourist town near Niagara Falls is descriptive and inviting. Also, I enjoyed little bits of humor, i.e. “I swear the man could wax on about dryer lint.”

Birch tree However, poetry quotes from Whitman (not one of my favs) on a cell phone Kindle app are difficult to read and interrupt the flow. I’m still having difficulty imagining the interior with the tree (aka The Goddess Tree) and spiral staircase to a second-floor apartment. It’s a paranormal–must swallow some disbelief. There are elements that are not wholly explained in the surprising conclusion and as an ARC edit misses and a few detail contradictions.

I was granted this ebook download by the publisher and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read for my unbiased review. I am looking forward to Book 5 and recommend to all who enjoy an easy, fast cozy read with a touch of paranormal and romance.

Book Details:

Genre: Cozy Animal Mysteries, Ghost Mysteries
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books

  • ISBN-10:1643851519
  • ISBN-13:978-1643851518
  • ASIN: B07NTYQQM4

Print Length: 260 pages
Publication Date: To be released December 10, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Verse and Vengeance
 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Three-point Five of Five Stars 3.5-stars

Amanda Flower - authorThe Author: Amanda Flower, a USA Today bestselling and Agatha Award-winning mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. Her debut mystery, Maid of Murder, was an Agatha Award Nominee for Best First Novel and her children’s mysteries, Andi Unexpected and Andi Under Pressure, were an Agatha Award Nominees for Best Children’s/YA Novel. Andi Unstoppable won the Agatha Award for Best Children’s/YA Novel 2015. Amanda is a former librarian living in northeast Ohio. Visit her at http://www.amandaflower.com

©2019 V Williams V Williams

Birch Tree Attribution: The Goddess Tree