Skip to main content

An Inquiry Into Love And Death by Simone St. James

An Inquiry Into Love And Death is the second novel by Simone St. James.  I previously read and reviewed and loved her debut The Haunting of Maddy Clare.  Her third novel is set to come out later this spring.  This second novel has everything its predecessor has: period drama, mystery, ghosts, romance, thrills, and suspense.  It's a terrifying, atmospheric, scary, creepy page turner.  AND the ghost hunters, Gellis and Ryder, from Maddy Clare get a shout out in this novel.  I will admit--I'm wondering what happened to Gellis and Ryder and Sarah from the first novel, but I loved the characters in An Inquiry as much as I loved the ones from Maddy Clare.  The debut novel took place in 1922; this novel takes place in 1924.

The English seaside village of Rothewell is possibly the most haunted place in England, this according to its residents.  The main manifestation dealt with in the story is a mysterious, mischievous and possibly hostile ghost by the name of Walking John.  Walking John haunts the woods nearby the village in fits and starts of cycles of seemingly random activity sparked by no one knows what catalyst.  The wraith is thought to be the spirit of a seventeenth century smuggler who killed himself in the immediate wake of the tragic drowning death of his young son whom he adored.  Is this the true origin of the haunting, and what is its connection to the Leigh family, if any?

Jillian Leigh, a student at Oxford, is called to Rothewell to identify the body of her estranged uncle, Toby, and to pack up his belongings from the house he was renting on the outskirts of the village.  Having not seen nor heard from her uncle for eight years following a rift of unknown origins between him and her parents, Jillian can only assume that Toby was in Rothewell on business.  Of course, knowing his chosen profession was ghost hunting, and upon hearing the legend of Walking John, Jillian believes that is what brought her uncle to Rothewell.

His body found at the bottom of a cliff, Toby's death is quickly ruled an accident, but that ruling doesn't hold much water with Inspector Drew Merriken, the Scotland Yard detective who arrives in Rothewell shortly after Jillian.  Based on a hunch he has (and on the knowledge of the true nature of the top secret investigation that has really brought him to town but which he holds back from Jillian), Drew believes Toby's death was no accident.  But all Drew has is a hunch and no proof, and one can't make a case based only on a hunch.  Soon Jillian is experiencing bone chillingly terrifying encounters with the mischievous spirit that haunts the woods nearby but cannot enter the house her uncle rented that now shelters Jillian.  It appears the spirit was intent on luring her uncle, just as it is now intent on luring Jillian from the safety of the house.

Why is the spirit fixed on Jillian (if it is at all)?  What did her uncle see in the woods a few nights before he fell to his death that, according to his journal, was not related to the supernatural manifestation he sought?  Is that what got Toby killed?  As it turns out the ghost isn't the only thing that uses the woods for cover especially at night.  And Jillian's connection to Rothewell may go far beyond merely being the place of her mysterious uncle's death.

After Drew and Jillian tentatively team up to solve the mystery of her uncle's death, Drew repeatedly warns Jillian to be careful of who she chooses to trust in the village.  Anyone could have pushed her uncle off that cliff for any reason related or not related to Walking John or to any other village secret.  Yet Jillian thinks nothing of confiding of her many encounters with Walking John to certain villagers (who are for all intents and purposes strangers to her) that I can't help but think, girl, you don't know who to trust there, so don't trust anyone!  That person to you're spilling everything might be the wrong person to trust!

I highly recommend you check this book out the next time you visit the library.


Popular posts from this blog

Broken by Karin Slaughter

Before I begin the formal review there are a few things I need to get off my chest in the wake of finishing this book; I'll do so without giving away too many (or any) spoilers.
The OUTRAGE!: the identity of Detective Lena Adams' new beau; the low depths to which Grant County's interim chief has sunk and brought the police force down with him; agent Will Trent's wife, Angie's, sixth sense/nasty habit of reappearing in his life just when he's slipping away from her. Thank God for small miracles though because while Angie was certainly referred to during the book, the broad didn't make an appearance. One sign that I've become way too invested in these characters is that I'd like to employ John Connolly's odd pair of assassins, Louis and Angel, to contract out a hit on Angie; do you think Karin Slaughter and John Connolly could work out a special cross over?
Hallelujah: Dr. Sara Linton and agent Will Trent are both back. There is no hallelujah for…

Crow Lake by Mary Lawson

When the end came, it seemed to do so completely out of the blue, and it wasn't until long afterward that I was able to see that there was a chain of events leading up to it. Some of those events had nothing to do with us, the Morrisons, but were solely the concern of the Pyes, who lived on a farm about a mile away and were our nearest neighbors." from page seven
I must confess that it took me longer than it really needed to in order to finish the novel Crow Lake by Mary Lawson. The entire story is building up to the big catastrophe that forever destroys all the hopes and dreams the Morrison clan ever dared to hope and dream for its future. In the eyes of the narrator, it is even worse than the tragedy of the car crash that claimed both parents' lives one evening on the heels of some good news the family has received and celebrated. Now you can see why I dreaded getting to the end of a book that drips in foreboding like nobody's business. What can be a worse tra…

In The Woods by Tana French

"What I warn you to remember is that I am a detective. Our relationship with the truth is fundamental, but cracked, refracting confusingly like fragmented glass. It is the core of our careers, the endgame of every move we make, and we pursue it with strategies painstakingly constructed of lies ... and every variation on deception. The truth is the most desirable woman in the world and we are the most jealous lovers, reflexively denying anyone else the slightest glimpse of her. We betray her routinely ... This is my job ... What I am telling you, before you begin my story, is this--two things: I crave truth. And I lie." opening lines of In The Woods chapter 1, pages 3-4
In The Woods by Tana French, an Irish writer, is an extremely well-written and well-crafted mystery novel. The downside is that this is French's debut novel, and her website (located at does not offer any insi…