My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I’m delighted to report that Haunting Jordan by P.J. Alderman was one of the most charming cozy mysteries I’ve read in some time. (And, happily, its Book 2 was equally engaging–but more on that in that book’s review.)
The Jordan of the title is our heroine Jordan Marsh, a therapist who’s fled L.A. to avoid the storm of controversy surrounding her philandering husband’s murder. She’s been a suspect, and indeed is still considered a suspect by a particularly determined detective even though she’s been cleared of any wrongdoing. Now she’s resettling in the Pacific Northwest, hoping to start a new life. Problem is, that quaint old house she’s hoping to renovate is already occupied. By two ghosts who want her to solve one of their own murders. And much to Jordan’s deep chagrin, her ability to see and interact with not only these ghosts but every other ghost in the town makes her an instant figure of color to everyone else in Port Chatham, especially Jase Cunningham, her handsome neighbor.
Thus begins a dual plotline, one with Jordan delving deep into researching the town’s history to try to figure out what happened to the deceased Hattie, and the other with the murder of Jordan’s husband and the fallout around it chasing her to Port Chatham. You have to suspend your disbelief a bit in regards to the historical plotline, and go with the flow that apparently every prominent ghost in the town had their lives so well and thoroughly documented that letters and journals and newspapers of the time are conveniently around for Jordan to read through–but even given that, the exploration of those characters’ fates is fun.
So is the current-day plot. It takes a bit to set up who the actual killer of Jordan’s husband was, given that the history plot gets so much camera time; astute readers will, also, probably figure out faster than I did who did it. But I didn’t really care, since I was having such fun with Alderman’s prose.
In particular, I had great fun with the developing relationship between Jordan and Jase. Alderman hit all the best ways to make a male lead character attractive to me, starting off with sentences that still stick out for me even as I write this review: “Caffeinated beverages notwithstanding, though, he looked… interesting. Broad shoulders, and a confident, ground-eating stride.” And, “Up close, his face was rugged and lived-in… and appealing.” This is pretty much all the physical cues that the author needed to give me about Jase’s attractiveness, as well as Jordan’s reaction to it. Throughout the rest of the book, Jase’s appeal is demonstrated through his actions and his participation in the plot, and through his overall laid-back nature–up until he’s called up to not be laid-back anymore, at which point he demonstrates his ability to ramp up his focus impressively. In other words, the hero is sexy not because he’s mind-bogglingly gorgeous, but because he’s awesome.
And I love that. Compared with the more blatant descriptions of so-called sexy heroes that I run into all over paranormal romance and much urban fantasy, not to mention the overtly physical descriptions of how heroines react to them, this was the best possible way to get me invested in the book’s budding romance. Combined with the town’s overall quirky reaction to Jordan’s ghost-seeing ability–i.e., not a single person in the town is surprised that the ghosts exists, and many of them envy her the ability to see them–I found this fun from start to finish.
It’s not perfect. Like I said, one does need to suspend a bit of disbelief when it comes to how well the former lives of the ghost characters are documented, and some readers may find the complexity of the plot lacking. But I loved Alderman’s prose and characters so much that I didn’t care about either of these things, and it is a measure of how much I adored this book and its successor that after I bought the ebooks, I went right back out and bought them in paperback as well so that I’d have offline copies. Alderman has definitely joined my list of authors I want to keep around in print. Five stars.