fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsDead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell cozy paranormal mystery audiobook reviewsDead Bolt by Juliet Blackwell

Dead Bolt is the second book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES. I liked the first book, If Walls Could Talk, well enough, but felt like it was too similar to Blackwell’s other paranormal cozy mystery series, WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES. The best thing about both series is that the audiobook versions are read by the amazing Xe Sands and, I swear, I would probably be happy listening to Xe read the tax code. (Fortunately, Blackwell’s books are a lot more entertaining than that!) These books are short — each is just over 7 hours long in audio format.

In Dead Bolt, Mel Turner has been asked to renovate the historic San Francisco home of a young couple with a baby. The house, which used to be a boarding house, seems to be haunted by a shadowy malign presence — something that Mel hasn’t encountered before. The woman who lives there, a young mother from Russia, can feel it too, and she’s scared. Then the obnoxious man who runs a taxidermy shop across the street is murdered… after he’s had a public argument with Mel. As she begins to investigate the murder and the ghost, Mel meets some strange denizens of San Francisco and gets caught up in their personal drama.

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Audio version: Xe Sands is amazing!

On the personal front, Mel continues to juggle a couple of sexy men as she tries to come to grips with her ex-husband’s new wife (who insists on remodeling the house Mel had already remodeled) and the new girlfriend of the guy she has a crush on (who wants to throw a child’s birthday party at one of Mel’s dangerous construction sites).

I like and admire Mel, but I didn’t quite believe some of her behavior here. She (for the second time in two books) forgets she has a meeting with the guy she is infatuated with, then decides to rebuff him after she had already planned to seduce him. These plot devices serve to increase the romantic tension, but don’t seem believable at all. And, Mel, please don’t go into haunted attics alone when there’s nobody else in the house. It seems like you’d know that by now.

I mentioned in my review of the first book, If Walls Could Talk, that I’ve found the HAUNTED HOME series to be too similar to the WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series. (See that review for the comparisons.) That feeling continues with Dead Bolt. For many fans, this is probably totally fine, but I was really hoping for something different here. I do, however, love the San Francisco setting and love to learn more about the city with each book. The plot of Dead Bolt was inspired by some legendary events in San Francisco’s history, and I think that’s kind of cool.

Published in 2011: Turner Construction’s latest restoration project is a historic Queen Anne Victorian in San Francisco. This time general contractor Mel Turner has to work around the owners who insist on sticking around- along with some ghosts that insist in their own way that the work stops… The ghosts aren’t the only ones standing in the way of the renovations. A crotchety neighbor, Emile Blunt, secretly wants this house, and could be behind some of the disturbances. But when Emile is found dead, it’s Mel who appears guilty. Now she must restore the building-and her reputation-before it’s too late.


  • Kat Hooper

    KAT HOOPER, who started this site in June 2007, earned a Ph.D. in neuroscience and psychology at Indiana University (Bloomington) and now teaches and conducts brain research at the University of North Florida. When she reads fiction, she wants to encounter new ideas and lots of imagination. She wants to view the world in a different way. She wants to have her mind blown. She loves beautiful language and has no patience for dull prose, vapid romance, or cheesy dialogue. She prefers complex characterization, intriguing plots, and plenty of action. Favorite authors are Jack Vance, Robin Hobb, Kage Baker, William Gibson, Gene Wolfe, Richard Matheson, and C.S. Lewis.