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.
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.
Kat, do you think I could start with this one, or must they absolutely be read in order?
Marion, you could start with any of them, really.
Shouldn’t everyone know by now not to go into haunted houses alone?? Doing otherwise just seems willfully foolish.