Sophreena McClure and Esme Sabatier are an odd couple. The women are partners in a family history research business, and they share a home in the fictional town of Morningside, North Carolina. Sophreena is quite short and looks like a classic mild-mannered nerd. Esme is over six feet tall and carries every inch of that height with attitude. Sophreena’s approach to their work is always the same–systematic research and meticulous documentation. Esme adds an unorthodox element–she gets messages from the spirit world. In the five years that they’ve worked together they have traded off each other’s strengths and gotten used to dealing with the prickly wealthy people who are their usual clients.
Dorothy Pritchett Porter is typical of their clients: she wants a sanitized version of her family history packaged in an attractive set of scrapbooks to impress anyone who visits her in her mansion on Crescent Hill. Sophreena and Esme are on track to deliver that in time for Mrs. Porter’s open house on the weekend of the town’s Honeysuckle Festival. As Paging the Dead opens, the researchers have just made Mrs. Porter very happy by locating a ring that is a long-missing family heirloom; as they leave, she is playing with the great-niece who she adores. That is the last time that they see Mrs. Porter alive.
Because Sophreena and Esme are among the last people to see Mrs. Porter alive, the police, in the person of detective Denton Carlson, visit the women at their home. It’s not long before half the town considers them suspects. To clear their names and protect their business, Sophreena and Esme begin to poke around. With an estranged husband, a somewhat feckless nephew, and long-lost sister who has recently returned to town, there is no shortage of suspects.
This reader senses that Paging the Dead may be the first book in a projected series. Sophreena and Esme’s backstories are revealed, as is how the two women met, and readers become acquainted with their circle of friends. Romantic interest are introduced. It is clear that something will develop between Esme and Detective Carlson, although readers should not be too hopeful about Sophreena’s chances with Jackson Ford, the landscape architect who is part of the women’s social group.
Check this title’s availability in the UNC-Chapel Hill Library catalog.