Book Review: The Secret of Lucianne Dove by Roberta L. Smith

4161425Title: The Secret of Lucianne Dove
Author: Roberta L. Smith
Genre: Paranormal Mystery, Ghosts, Historical Fiction
Publisher: Lulu
Publication Date: January 26th 2008
Rating: 4 stars
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Review copy provided by the author.

Lucianne Dove came to Virginia City during its heyday, a bride with a past that would eventually destroy her. A century and a quarter later, crusty newspaper reporter Mickey McCoy comes to town. Officially he’s been sent by his boss to do a fluff piece. But Mickey has come for reasons of his own. Curious coincidences have convinced him that something important will take place; something that will free him from a painful past. So what happens when Lucianne’s spirit makes contact? Mickey begins a quest to find out who she is and what she wants. And when he succeeds, there are far-reaching consequences. Two souls from two different eras seeking to transform their legacies makes for a paranormal tale with a heart, a soul, and a message of forgiveness.

The Secret of Lucianne Dove starts with a flashback to Virginia City several centuries ago, and to the trial and hanging of a local woman named Lucianne Dove. As Lucianne faces her punishment, death, she leaves one last message for the crowd, which leaves most of the reporters puzzled. The message is for Janie to get in touch with her little sister. It’s a puzzling message that makes absolutely no sense, since the only Janie who Lucianne could be talking about had a little sister who died years ago. Although some of the local people including the sheriff have their doubts on whether or not Lucianne was guilty for the crime she was punished for, dead is dead and they leave it like that.

Back in the present day, sixty-something year old reporter Mickey McCoy is having strange dreams. It’s like these dreams want to bring a message across. But they make no sense whatsoever. One even involves Marjorie Main in Ma and Paw Kettle in Lake Tahoe, played for an entire night. And it’s not just dreams. His boss is acting weird, having weird dreams as well, and tiny things happen that lead Mickey to believe that he should really take this case he initially didn’t want, to visit the annual races in Virginia City and write a report about it. It’s like destiny, or some other supernatural force, is forcing him to go. Mickey is a grumpy old man with a nose for excellent news story, but the story he is going to come across in Virginia City is unlike anything he ever imagined.

In the next chapter we meet a woman named Marjorie whose daughter Luce is secretly visiting Virginia City dressed up like a woman from the 1800s and asking everyone who wants to hear where Janie is. Disturbing behavior to say the least, but what’s even stranger is that Luce is being ordered to do so by a visitor from beyond the grave, the same visitor who has tormented Luce’s dreams for over a year. By the time Mickey arrives in Virginia City, the legend of this ghostly apparition wandering around looking for a certain Janie has long since spread. Although he senses that his coming to Virgnia City, which was by no means an accident, has something to do with this ghostly appearance, he can’t figure out what exactly just yet.

Around that time Mickey meets with the owner of Comstock Children’s Home, who is struggling to make ends meet, especially since an angry social worker with two substantial degrees and an ill-will towards Comstock Children’s Home, has made it her life’s goal to put the orphanage down. Since he grew up in an orphanage himself, Mickey is eager to help the children of Comstock Children’s Home by writing a report about the orphanage and hopefully gathering some publicity and charity money by doing so. It’s there that he figures out that the mysterious ghostly woman has been bothering the orphans as well, continously asking about Janie. Records prove that Janie was once enlisted in Comstock Children’s Home, in the late 1800s. Now it’s up to Mickey to solve the mystery and figure out what the connection is between Janie and the mysterious ghost.

The Secret of Lucianne Dove is perhaps one of the most intriguing paranormal mystery novels I’ve ever read. I have to say that it isn’t exactly scary though, which was an entirely new experience for me. I’m used to ghosts being these malicious, threatening apparitions from the beyond seeking revenge or setting right past wrongs, but doing so in a very terrifying way. Not so with the ghosts Roberta L. Smith presents us with. Lucianne Dove is more of a tragic character than a menacing one, and she has absolutely no desire to hurt or kill the main characters. That’s why I don’t think this book should be classified as a horror novel, but more like a paranormal mystery. And what a fine mystery it is. Although I had a faint clue as to where the ending would lead, there were so many bits and pieces of information hidden throughout the novel and so many clever twists and turns that I couldn’t stop reading till the very end.

Mickey is an interesting protagonist. For one, he’s over sixty years old. I think this is probably the first time in a non-epic fantasy book that I’ve come across a main character of this age. Mickey’s age made me think of him a bit like the character of Anthony Hopkins in the in 2011 released movie The Rite, where he plays an old exorcist and eventually gets possessed by a demon himself. Every time when I imagine how Mickey looks like, I see Anthony Hopkins in that role. He gives off this sort of grandfatherly feel, although being grumpy and pensive most of the time. His age adds some troubles as well. For instance, I couldn’t imagine Mickey chasing down runaway ghosts down an appartment building while jumping off the stairs three at a time. He’s not of those overly active, sporty, muscled and trained detective characters. He’s more like detective Colombo as he tries to figure out this mystery. I was always a big fan of Colombo, and I’m a big fan of Mickey as well.

I have to hand it to Mickey though, he does take this paranormal gifts thing very lightly. Hell, even I would be more freaked out about having dreams that transport me back in time than Mickey is, and that at his age. Granted, he has a history in New Age spirituality stuff, but I still think he deals with this kind of stuff extraordinary well. I would like to know more about Mickey and his personal history. So far all we know is that he grew up in an orphanage himself, but I’m still eager to find out who his real parents were and whether or not they have something to do with him possessing some sort of sixth sense. Mickey is a mysterious character as well. Not only is a lot left in the dark as regards to his past, but he doesn’t hand out information about himself freely. He’s the typical old man who doesn’t talk a lot but seems to have a lot of secrets to spill regardless. I’m eagerly anticipating the day when Mickey is ready to spill those secrets.

With an original and intriguing protagonist, a chilling paranormal mystery ready to be solved, time travel and a little hint of romance, The Secret of Lucianne Dove makes a wonderful novel to read on a cold winter afternoon. If you’re a fan of ghosts, paranormal stuff or mysteries than this book is definately your kind of thing. Roberta L. Smith has a narrator’s voice that pulls you in from page one, and doesn’t let you catch a breathe until the very end. She writes fluent and doesn’t enter into long descriptions, although she does manage to transport the reader back in time in an almost effortless way. I could almost feel and taste the old wild west. Definately not for the faint of heart, but the focus of this book isn’t to portray ghosts as being terrifying either, more like tragic and misunderstood souls. For fans of the genre and people looking for something new, you shouldn’t miss out on this book.

This book counts towards the TBR Reading Challenge, the Mystery and Suspense Challenge and the Go Indie Challenge.


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