In Murder on the House, the third book in Juliet Blackwell’s HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES, Melanie “Mel” Turner is starting to acquire a reputation as a successful general contractor and ghostbuster. Homeowners around San Francisco are asking for her special services and she’s got some new projects going on while she’s still finishing up some of the historic renovations we got to see in the first two books, If Walls Could Talk and Dead Bolt. This time she’s got a unique case. The homeowners whose historic house she hopes to renovate want the ghosts of the children that haunt the upstairs nursery to stay. They plan to convert the house into a haunted bed & breakfast and think the ghosts will attract customers looking for a unique San Francisco experience.
But Mel doesn’t have the job yet. To win it, she has to compete with a rival. The contractor who can spend the night in the house gets the job. Mel thinks that will be easy, but she’s wrong. The house is way creepier than she expects… and then someone gets killed. As usual, Mel can’t keep her nose out of the other people’s murders. Fortunately, she has a unique set of skills. As she begins to untangle a web of betrayal, she also uses her knowledge of building construction to get at the truth.
Mel’s love life is moving a lot slower than her career is. Blackwell is really dragging out this part of the story to increase the romantic tension. I think it’s a smart strategy for a romantic cozy mystery series, but I don’t like that I can see right through it. There’s no convincing reason for Mel to be standoffish with the guy she’s got a major crush on. It’s clearly a ploy.
Another niggling problem is that the stories are starting to get a bit repetitive with some of the same explanations, backstories, and even dialogue. For example, at least once in each book Mel’s father offers her breakfast in the morning, to which she replies something along the lines of “I’m the daughter who doesn’t eat breakfast, remember?” There is so much explanation of who everyone is and what has gone on before that you really don’t have to read the earlier books in the series, but all that re-explaining takes up too much space in such a short book.
Still, Murder on the House was a fun story. I enjoyed the haunted house scenes which seemed to parody those old horror movies that we all make fun of. I laughed quite a few times during this story, especially during the scenes where Mel’s best friend is interacting with Mel’s ex-husband’s new wife. Also, as usual, I learned some interesting San Francisco history, which is one of my favorite things about this series.
Another favorite thing is the audiobook narration. If you’re going to read HAUNTED HOME RENOVATION MYSTERIES, please try the audio versions produced by Tantor Audio. Each book is just over 7 hours long and is narrated by the fabulous Xe Sands.