4 out of 4 stars
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Hattie Vavaseur by M. Rebecca Wildsmith is a charming ghost and mystery novel that tells the story of Ms. Hattie Vavaseur’s afterlife. The story begins with Ms. Vavaseur attending a “bleak and somewhat sentimentally false” (p. 1) funeral. After the funeral, she is taken by a taxi to an old country mansion. Her memory is somewhat foggy, and she cannot quite remember where she is going or why. Strange things keep happening in the big house: she is put in a bedroom that is completely decorated in pink, although she has hated the color her whole life, there are no mirrors anywhere to be found, and the master of the house is unspeakably rude and unfriendly towards her. She demands to be taken home immediately; instead, she is taken to see an occultist medium named Vamelda. There, she learns that she is, in fact, dead and that the funeral from the beginning was her own.
For Hattie, it is of the utmost importance that she remembers her past life. For that, she needs the help of her still living nephew and his fiancé. At the same time, she gets involved in solving a murder of an American salesman. Also, her relationship with the odd house owner slowly improves over time. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the lives (or afterlives) of all these characters are way more interconnected and interdependent than it seemed at the first sight.
I absolutely loved this book. Through her descriptions, the author managed to evoke the atmosphere of an old, English country mansion in the 1920s – a bit run down and neglected but majestic and awe-inspiring, nevertheless. While reading, I was reminded of films and series such as Gosford Park and Downtown Abby. Furthermore, the author created a whole palette of unique, charismatic, and exotic characters that come alive on the pages of the book. I especially liked how she captured the transformation of Hattie Vavaseur from a prim, snobbish old lady into a person full of passion, strength, and willingness to fight for her own happiness. Finally, the novel was incredibly funny. Wildsmith’s humor is often on the farcical side. The worlds of the living and the dead intertwine in the most hilarious ways, often creating ridiculous or absurd situations.
There was not anything I disliked about this book. At times, the language was a bit difficult and old-fashioned, and I had to look in the dictionary more than once. However, this did not diminish my pleasure in reading. On the contrary, it just added an additional layer of believability to the atmosphere of the novel.
The novel was professionally edited, and I did not find a single typographical mistake. There is absolutely no profanity in the book and there are only a few scenes with mild sexual content that are primarily romantic in character. The book is suitable for readers of all age groups, especially those who enjoy romance and crime fiction à la Agatha Christie.
I am very happy to rate this book 4 out of 4 stars.
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