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Bill LeFurgy
Murder in the Haunted Chamber
Bill LeFurgy, author
Dr. Sarah Kennecott does not believe in ghosts. But after her dead sister appears in a dream to forecast a murder, Sarah knows she must find the killer. Solving the case requires Sarah to deal with suspicious characters, including a shady academic, an imperious grande dame, and a spiritual medium with a shocking secret. Sarah’s detective partner Jack Hardin remains haunted by a massacre witnessed overseas. Focusing on the murder pulls him back from the abyss—along with his faith in the medium’s ability to banish his ghosts. At the same time, he must contend with a seductive bordello madam and a high-priced assassin. Sarah and Jack move among seedy saloons, high society parlors, and terrifying encounters with apparent spirits while trying to bring the killer to justice. Their relationship is at stake, along with their lives.
LeFurgy’s second historic mystery takes a turn for the supernatural. It's 1910, and Baltimore is at the height of the spiritualist movement. Ever logical, returning hero Sarah Kennecott, a doctor on the autism spectrum, is a skeptic even when faced with the ghost of her own sister asking her to investigate the murder of a young woman. But when a decidedly living client—claiming to be a spiritual medium—shows up seeking her help in finding the same woman who appeared in Sarah's vision, Sarah and her returning partner, the detective Jack Harden, must once again dive into the seedy underbelly of Baltimore in order to catch a killer.

Lefurgy's signal strength is his persuasive weaving in of historic details of technology, pop culture, and Baltimore lore without distracting from the story. The characters ride around in horse-drawn or motor cabs, checking out seedy bars that play ragtime while being heckled by prohibitionists. The story itself is a complex mystery with a wide cast of characters tied together through with an assassination plot and a blackmail attempt.That complexity is mitigated by the author pausing periodically to have the characters rehash the situation, which might prove repetitive for seasoned fans of the genre.

The protagonists form a classic duo of opposites—Jack is an emotional man of the streets, while Sarah is a logic-oriented member of high society—who complement each other well and have a spark of affection that leads to an unlikely but believable friendship. Sarah is particularly unique as a historical heroine on the autism spectrum. While her speech patterns are exaggeratedly stilted (“There is a high probability that all three deaths are attributable to a murderer, or perhaps a team of murderers”) in the manner of Vulcans or androids, overall she is a fully realized person with a passion for justice, one who also misses social cues. The book is a well-plotted mystery set against a vivid historical backdrop.

Takeaway: Great for readers of historical mysteries who love clever female detectives.

Great for fans of: Rhys Bowen, Victoria Thompson

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