Review of "Givin’ Up the Ghost" by Gwen Gardner

Indigo Eady is just your average 16-year-old girl.  That is, if you define “average” as:  being moved to another country after your dad has been murdered; being followed constantly by a dark evil shadow that smells of burnt dog poo; seeing and talking to ghosts; and being a total klutz around quite possibly the cutest boy in the world.

Okay, so she’s a little different…

Indigo (named for the color of her eyes) has just recently moved to England, and is liviing with her uncle and cousin.  The house is huge, maybe too large for just four people.  But with the spirit population that exists there, for Indigo it isn’t big enough.  Not that they bother her; she tries to ignore them.  If these souls knew she could communicate with them, they’d never leave her alone.

Even out on the streets, the sidewalks are populated with the, er, population of bygone days.  But there is one presence that is pure evil.  The Dark Shadow.  Well, it did do her one good turn; it scared her so much that she tore out from between two buildings and slammed right into Mr Cutest Boy in the World.  Badger by name.

Turns out Badger and Indigo’s cousin Simon are good friends.  So, after a trip to the first-aid box inside the Blind Badger (Cutie’s family’s pub) and a few pleasantries exchanged, Indigo goes away feeling that perhaps she will be able to start over after all.

But then she meets Badger’s dad while at a “celebration of life” for Badger’s recently-deceased grandma.  Trouble is, Bart is dead.  A ghost.  With a bashed-in head.  Which was a surprise; the story everyone had told her was that he’d run off with his secretary.

Indigo’s dreams of normalcy are over.  She feels she needs to help restore Bart’s good name, for the sake of his family.  Therefore, she bares her talents to Badger, Simon, and Badger’s sister, Riley.  Unbelieving at first, of course, they soon learn she is telling the truth, and the four of them start digging into all the details they can find.  With the help of a street-smart kid by the name of Cappy, and several ghosts, they finally find the information they need to exonerate Badger’s dad.  But not without a lot of dead ends (sorry) and missed turns.  And a couple more murders.

 

I would love to see this book made into a movie.  It just has “screenplay” written all over it.  In my mind’s eye, I can see the kids sitting at the table in the pub, and the ghosts just wandering around engaged in the activities of their own ex-lives.  Hannah especially–the ghost of a serving girl, she seems infatuated with Simon, and loves modern technology.

This was a really good mystery in several ways. First of all, I didn’t know whodunnit until almost the very end.  Everyone seemed to have a motive, but there was never enough incriminating evidence.  Everybody acted suspiciously, especially when the kids were asking them questions about Bart.  Most lied.  And practically every potential murderer had a backstory that had not been part of the police investigation into Bart’s disappearance.

I really appreciate that Ms. Gardner’s characters’ British way of speaking doesn’t overload the reader’s mind. I got a sense of Britspeak, especially with the cockney that Cappy spoke, but it’s really sort of hinted at rather than expressed. It kept the storyline as the key interest, rather than allowing the speech to be a distraction.

There are a number of questions that Ms. Gardner didn’t answer, on purpose of course.  Those will probably be answered, and others asked, in her next book, A Guilty Ghost Surprised, scheduled to be released mid-2013.

That will be one book that I definitely will have to get!

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