Royal Ghost (A Mina Scarletti Mystery) - Linda Stratmann

See my full review at Mystereity Reviews

It's 1871 in Brighton and a scandalous account by 2 sisters claiming to have seen Prince George IV and his paramour in flagrante delicto at The Pavilion has shocked and upset many of the town's citizens. Mina becomes aware that the account may be plagiarized, and begins to look into the matter. When Arthur Wallace Hope, comes to town ostensibly to promote a fund to find Dr. Livingstone in Africa, many of the townspeople are enamored by the charismatic Viscount. Mina suspects Hope's intentions are not as benign as he would like her to believe. As she investigates both matters further, Mina finds that nothing is as it seems.

I haven't read the first book in this series, but I have read one of the author's other books (The Secret Poisoner, and I definitely recommend it!) and I really liked the writing style. I think what I enjoyed most about the book was the Victorian world the author has created, it's evident how thoroughly the book was researched and the actions and reactions of the characters felt very realistic and vivid. I loved all the descriptions of the conjurors' tricks, I would've loved to have seen that through Mina's eyes. I had a real giggle at all the women who were scandalized by the thought of a dirty book and yet most of them had already read it, it was a testament to the hypocrisy of the Victorians and their attitudes towards sex, some of which still pervade today. There's a lot about the topic of Spiritualism, and how the Victorian fascination with death and the afterlife led to charlatans and con artists taking advantage of those beliefs.

The Royal Ghost had a great plot that kept me guessing. I enjoyed watching Mina unravel the mystery behind An Encounter, and I was really surprised at the reveal at the end. While the riveting plot kept me turning pages, the great characters made it truly enjoyable. Mina is an intriguing heroine, with a body crippled by scoliosis that belies her sharp mind, quick wit and iron will. It's no surprise that she is underestimated, and it's satisfying when she rises to the challenge. Arthur Wallace Hope makes an interesting foe; wholly fallible, it's not difficult to understand his misguided enthusiasm in defending Spiritualism, and his zeal makes it easy to love-to-hate him. Mina's tight-knit group of collaborators -brother Richard, Richard's paramour, Nellie, and Dr. Hamid and his sister Anna - round out a great cast of characters.

This book can be read as a standalone -but- some of the plot threads in this book are a continuation of the previous book. Although the many references did not hamper my understanding of this book, I do feel that I would've gotten more out of this book if I had the context that the first book would've provided.

Overall, The Royal Ghost is an outstanding historical mystery, true to the era and a fascinating tour through Victorian times. This will appeal to mystery fans who enjoy a gas-light atmosphere, and an intriguing Victorian plot.

Thank you to The History Press and Netgalley for an advance copy of The Royal Ghost. This review is my honest opinion.