Review: An Inquiry Into Love and Death by Simone St. James

After her uncle Toby, a renowned ghost hunter, is killed in a fall off a cliff, Oxford student Jillian Leigh must rive to the seaside village of Rothewell to pack up his belongings. Almost immediately, unsettling incidents – a book left in a cold stove, a gate swinging open on its own – escalate into terrifying events that convince Jillian an angry spirit is trying to enter the house and is haunting the woods around Blood Moon Bay. If Toby discovered something sinister during his investigations, was his death no accident?

The arrival of handsome Scotland Yard inspector Drew Merriken leaves Jillian with more questions than answers – and with the added complication of a powerful mutual attraction. She suspects someone will do anything to hide the truth and begins to discover secrets that lie deep within Rothewell… and at the very heart of who she is.

I’m in recovery from a Les Miserables induced reading slump, which got so bad that even Harry Potter couldn’t save it. Actually, I might be being a tad harsh on old Les Mis, because it was more a combination of factors, but that was definitely the immediate catalyst (and easy scapegoat).

I found myself thinking about The Haunting of Maddy Clare and considered picking it up for a re-read, but decided that since I had And
Inquiry into Love and Death
sitting on my Kindle, I should have a go at that. I think it may have cured the slump!

I really enjoyed this novel. It was fun in the same ways as Simone St. James’ other books, but perhaps even creepier.

I really liked the ghost story, though I think perhaps a little more could have been done with the second ghost. He was convenient, but lacked much more purpose than that. Walking John, however, was scary as they come. He’s my perfect spook, dangerous, creepy and disturbing, with a great backstory. In some ways, Walking John felt more fleshed out (ha!) than the main love interest.

I think St. James’ strength lies in her ability to make up a good story, with a nice creepy ghost and enough danger to keep you on your toes. I don’t think she has the same ability when it comes to her characters, but they’re still good enough that I can deal with them.
My main gripe is that her three female leads from all her books could well be the same person. There’s really only one basic character under there, with a few things added to make her different. Jillian, from this novel, is very similar to Sarah and Kitty, only she is an Oxford student. I feel like even this aspect of her wasn’t played to it’s full strength… She’s supposed to be a very clever girl, but I felt she was rather average. What saves them all is that the base character is one I quite like and a great female lead with a backbone. Yes, they get scared, but hell, I’d be a quivering mess at the bottom of the washing pile if I was in their place!

The supporting characters were also good. I love that St. James also keeps a human danger in her stories, so we have both the ghost and a living person to worry about. As always, the romance aspect was handled well. I didn’t like the romantic interest as much as I did Matthew (be still, my beating heart!) or Jack, but I still really liked him. I also liked that the ending was more open and there was no certain happily ever after. There’s also less sex in this book than there is in her others, which is fine by me.

The identity of the villain became a fairly obvious early on, as did the plot twist, but it was fine. I was more concerned with how it was all going to end!

This was St. James’ first published novel, and for a debut it is very good. I think she’s mostly ironed out the smaller issues in her writing since this novel, with her third book still coming up my favourite. I enjoyed the little reference to Gellis and Ryder too!

I rate this 4.5 out of 5 stars. It has problems, but it still had be jumping out of my skin when someone downstairs slammed a door!

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