Plot Type: Ghostbusters with a British Accent
Ratings: Violence—2; Sensuality—0; Humor—1
Publisher and Titles: Amberjack Publishing
1 The Case of the Green-Dressed Ghost (5/2017)
2 The Case of the Scottish Fetch (2018)
|Dr. Ribero's Moustache|
> Pamela Tompkin: She is a plump, friendly woman who is the Agency's psychic. She "visits haunted locations, and tells us whether a spirit is present or not, and what state of mind it's in." Pamela has an optimistic view of life and works hard to keep the peace among her bickering colleagues. She owns a shaggy sheepdog named Hemingway who sheds hair all over her apartment.
> Serena Flynn: An attractive, but snarly, young woman with "weasel-sharp eyes," she specializes in spirit extinguishing—capturing spirits in empty water bottles, which are shelved in the Agency's storeroom until they can be delivered to Infinite Enterprises (the rich, snobby, rival agency that gets most of the supernatural jobs in England) for long-term storage in their spirit depot. Serena is ALWAYS sarcastic to the point that you just want to tell her to shut up and get a life. She never has a positive thing to say about anyone, and she truly despises the supernatural spirits she traps (because of a childhood tragedy that is mentioned in a single throwaway sentence near the end of book one).
> Mike: He is the IT guy, or as he describes himself, "an integral part of this company." Mike is a hard-drinking young man who loves to spend time at the local pub. He is famous among his colleagues for accidentally blowing things up.
Kester Lanner had no idea what he was getting into. Following his dying mother’s request to find the mysterious Dr. Ribero, his peaceful existence is shaken as he discovers the secrets she strove to keep. Before long, and against his will, Kester is thrown headlong into the family business: catching terrifying spirits.
This first book basically introduces the Agency and its staff and adds Kester to the scene. Banks tells the story in the third person voice from Kester's perspective, so there are many, many interior monologues filled with whining, and whimpering about how scared, unhappy, and worthless he feels.
The Agency's primary case focuses on a haunted 19th century portrait of a beautiful lady dressed all in green. The crew has to get rid of the evil spirit inhabiting the portrait before the husband of the lady of the house arrives home from a trip. Although the ghost story section of the book (which includes old diary entries) is interesting, the Agency staffers approach the case so haphazardly that it's hard to believe they've been in business for three decades. Although early in the book, Wellbeloved stresses the importance of knowing what kind of spirit they're dealing with, they never bother to analyze the lady in green. They just pack up their equipment and take her on—only to be driven out of the house over and over again.
Obviously, this is the author's way of giving Kester—the academic nerd—a chance to prove himself to Dad and the team by uncovering some important facts about the history of the painting and its creator, details that this experienced team should have discovered before they ever began their attack on the spirit in the painting. Unfortunately, this rookie-level authorial manipulation just doesn't work because it makes the others look ignorant, while giving Kester the chance to step in and save the day—such a stale, old trope. It also gives Kester a chance to show off his brand new supernatural talent (but he stays true to form by falling unconscious at the end of the requisite showdown scene).
In a prelude to future books, Kester meets an attractive girl named Anya at the library. She flirts with him and invites him to join her book club, so perhaps there is romance ahead for our nerdy hero.
There are a few improbable events scattered through the story, but it mostly hangs together well enough to maintain a basic level of suspense. The dialogue is awkwardly written, as is common in first novels, so I'll give that a pass this time around. At this point in the series, Kester is the only character with any depth. The others are paper-thin and under-developed. Each one has at least one dominant personality trait, but that's about it: Ribero is arrogant; Wellbeloved is cool and controlled; Pamela is optimistic and caring; Serena is insufferable; and Mike is both confident and incompetent—at the same time, with the two traits basically canceling each other out.
As you can guess, I didn't care much for the novel, but if you're looking for a light-as-a-feather supernatural mystery that doesn't require any deep thought, you might enjoy it as a beach read.
The second novel will introduce one of Dr. Ribero's chief rivals, Larry Higgins, in a case that featuring murder and grave-robbing.