The Perfect Ghost by Linda Barnes 

By Austin Camacho

It takes courage for a best-selling author to change up their writing, but it can pay off big.  In THE PERFECT GHOST, award winning author Linda Barnes steps outside the box to take the mystery thriller to another level.

The story centers on Em Moore who is co-writing a celebrity biography with her charismatic partner, Teddy.  Teddy does all the socializing, interviewing and negotiating for both of them.  Being extremely shy and timid, Em is understandably devastated when Teddy dies in a car accident.  As the author points out, Em is not your typical thriller heroine.

“She’s a recluse, a non-partier, the ultimate wallflower,” Barnes says.  “A clever perfectionist, she is protagonist if not heroine.”

Teddy’s death leaves Em alone in a world she doesn’t understand.  To try to cope with her loss, Em decides to honor Teddy’s memory the only way she knows – by finishing their current book — an “autobiography” of renowned film director Garrett Malcolm. His character brings us around to the spectral title.

“The title has a double meaning,” Barnes says, “referring both to the profession of the protagonist, a ghostwriter by trade, and to the ghost of Hamlet’s father, the role played by another main character, the actor-director-screenwriter, Garrett Malcolm.”

Malcolm turns out to be rather reclusive as well.  Em finds herself hidden away in a little cottage in Cape Cod near Malcolm’s home, trying to work up the courage to interview Malcolm.  While there she hears disturbing rumors about Malcolm’s family and senses trouble between Malcolm and a movie star from his past.  When the police start looking into Teddy’s death Em begins to feel her life going off the rails.  Not a situation you’d expect a working writer to fall into, but according to Barnes the choice of a writer as the protagonist was both fun and challenging.

“A challenge, because the placing of words in the right order on a screen is not the most exciting of activities,” Barnes admits.  “It’s far easier to generate tension by describing the mechanics of a gun than the mechanics of a sentence.”

Em is a very different character than Carlotta Carlyle, the heroine of Barnes’ best-selling mystery series.  That series has a Michael Connolly flavor, while the more subtle THE PERFECT GHOST has more of a Daphne DuMaurier feel.  And this is a clear standalone book, from an author who is a self-proclaimed series fanatic.  Still when this book’s ideas came calling, Barnes admits she couldn’t help herself.

“I started hearing other voices in my head.  I left Carlotta in a good place, with a major character arc resolved. THE PERFECT GHOST was a leap into what I thought, at first, was a new series. It took an unexpected path, and turned into a standalone.”

Great stories are often the result of unexpected inspiration or a muse we can’t ignore.  When an award winning, best-selling writer moves into different territory it can result in a novel the smart reader doesn’t want to miss.  Good reason to grab a copy of Linda Barnes’ THE PERFECT GHOST.

*****

Linda Barnes, winner of the Anthony and American Mystery Awards, Edgar and Shamus nominee, is best known as the author of the Boston-based Carlotta Carlyle series. The most recent Carlyle, LIE DOWN WITH THE DEVIL, was named one of the best mysteries of 2008 by PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY.

To learn more about Linda, please visit her website.

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