TJ O'Connor,
Dying to Know
(Midnight Ink, 2014)

Ghosts and goblins and wee tiny beasties and things that go bump in the night have long fascinated tellers of tales, in whatever media. What child has not been afraid of a monster under the bed, as in Bill Watterson's classic Calvin & Hobbes comics, or shivered with delight and a soupcon of fear about the bogeyman? Movies galore have been made about ghosts, goblins, fairies, witches and others, and been enjoyed by many of us. Nations have tales based upon those in limbo, or still here on Earth, dead, but unable to leave, such as the characters on television, either on BBC UK in Being Human or the Syfy channel's version of the show in the same vein. There are ghosts about, and a lot of us like it.

In TJ O'Connor's, Dying to Know, one has the pleasure of reading a murder mystery with a ghost that not only is the dear departed, but also a primary part of the solution to the crime. Just a few pages into this fast-paced book, Oliver Tucker, or Tuck, is shot dead whilst investigating a noise from the downstairs of his house. As a detective of 15 years' experience, Tuck knows how to catch a criminal, particularly one in his own home. As his wife Angela, or Angel, waits upstairs with Herc, their black lab, Tuck's .38 revolver in hand, Tuck investigates the noise from the lower level. Although he is carrying his .40 Glock, and hoping to be back in his wife's loving arms in no time, a light that should not be on alerts Tuck to a problem. Like a Columbo plot, where the murder occurs early on, and the murderer is revealed, in this case, there is no immediate perp, and Tuck is killed. (The reader should be assured that Tuck's death is an integral part of the plot, and that no spoiler occurs by revealing Tuck's death.)

When Tuck is shot the only one that knows Tuck is still among the living, albeit not quite himself, is Herc, his faithful black Lab. Tuck is not good at being a ghost, yet despite the awkward fact he is dead, he has not lost his finely-honed detective skills. With time, practice and advice from a ghostly doctor whom Tuck faintly remembers, Tuck puzzles through the whys and wherefores to reach the whodunit.

As often happens in detective fiction, Tuck's suspicions start to fall on his partner and close friend, Bear, who seems to be a little too interested in Angel's well-being.

Without giving away anything, Tuck finds a way to make Angel aware of his presence, and believe that he is still fully capable of solving his murder. There are a number of characters within the book, such as a mob boss from the big bad city of New York, as well as friends, foes, a Civil War site containing some human bones and several other ghosts that will be revealed to the reader in due time.

In Dying to Know, O'Connor's debut novel, a wonderful new character is introduced with wit, an interesting plot and a wee bit of sadness that a great guy like Tuck is dead. Or is he? I am pleased to note that a second book, Dying for the Past, will follow this wonderful read in 2015. I'll start popping the popcorn.

book review by
Ann Flynt

5 April 2014

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