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Helen Currie Foster
Author
Ghost Daughter
When lawyer Alice MacDonald Greer finds the body of her widowed friend Ellie Windom at the foot of a staircase, a terrorized horse dancing nearby, she knows trouble's ahead. Serving as executor for her friend's will means grappling with Ellie's explosive secrets: Ellie recently located her long-lost daughter, Valerie Ames (whose existence is unknown to Ellie's feuding sons) and re-ignited her relationship with Valerie's birth-father, Roger Preyer. Detective George Files finds no murder weapon. Ellie's sons and wives claim alibis. Alice quickly discovers, in Ellie's Santa Fe vacation home, a treasure trove of hidden art with questionable history, and the vultures begin to circle. Intruders, carjackers, and greedy heirs all want a seat at the feast. Detective Files finds a blood-stained codicil handwritten by Ellie, and a possible weapon in a hay bale. Roger survives three mysterious near-fatal assaults. Investigating in high gear, Alice returns to Santa Fe and fends off another attack, stunned to discover her attacker is Ellie's daughter-in-law, Danielle. Alice convenes the family at her Coffee Creek office to demand compliance with law. Enraged, Danielle attacks Alice. Detective Files bursts in and arrests Danielle for Ellie's murder.

Semi Finalist

Plot/Idea: 10 out of 10
Originality: 10 out of 10
Prose: 10 out of 10
Character/Execution: 10 out of 10
Overall: 10.00 out of 10

Assessment:

Plot: An exciting mystery filled with twists and turns, Foster has written an intriguing and complex narrative filled with adventure. The mystery is well thought out and contains plenty of meticulously-placed clues. Newcomers to the series will be able to dive right in.

Prose/Style: The prose is detailed, painting vivid imagery for the reader. The atmospheric locations are described beautifully, and the characters’ backstories and intentions are pieced together throughout the story. The reader is constantly learning new details about the cast members.

Originality: This story provides a nice twist to a normal murder mystery by following a unique protagonist, the estate lawyer, through the journey of clues, which provides a refreshing viewpoint on investigations.

Character Development/Execution: While the characters do not change or grow much here, it is obvious that the main characters have already shown growth from previous books in this series. The characters are consistent in their motives and traits and are all very detailed and entertaining.

Date Submitted: August 23, 2021

Reviews
Life on Alice MacDonald Greer’s Texas ranch seems pretty idyllic: she’s surrounded by friendly burros, her law practice keeps her busy, and she just got engaged after half a decade of mourning her husband’s disappearance over the North Sea. Fresh off her last experience as an amateur sleuth (detailed in the prequel, Ghost Cat), Alice finds her bliss cut short when her friend and client Ellie Windom returns from a trip to Sante Fe with shocking news: Ellie has found the daughter she was forced to give up for adoption in high school. Ellie, now 72, widowed, and the mother to two bickering sons, wants to update her will to reflect this exciting discovery, but Alice soon finds her dead—with no murder weapon or suspects to be found. What follows is a hair-raising mystery that keeps Alice—and readers—on her toes until the very last page.

Foster has nailed the cozy mystery genre. Her portrait of Texas hill country is both empathetic and witty, and rural readers will find the politics and pleasures of small-town life absolutely true-to-life. This doesn’t mean that this adventure is for the easily scared, however: there are plenty of twists and turns that are sure to give readers chills even as they try to puzzle out whodunit. Though Ghost Daughter is the seventh installment in the Alice MacDonald Greer series, it’s easy to pick your way through its cast of unique characters—in this case, the people of Coffee Creek, Texas —without missing a beat.

Foster’s mastery of imagery and dialogue is on display throughout, her flowing prose making this an inviting, entertaining read. Art-lovers and legal-minded readers will appreciate the nods to these passions throughout; the works of Gustave Baumann, for instance, are pivotal to the plot. Readers are sure to be surprised by the conclusion, but can rejoice that there are many more MacDonald Greer mysteries planned.

Takeaway: Head’s up, cozy mystery fans: Helen Currie Foster’s latest is a must-read for the summer.

Great for fans of: Ellery Adams, Diane Kelly.

Production grades
Cover: B-
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A-

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