Having lived a (very very) long life, Brenda, the narrator of this novel by Paul Magrs, has settled in Whitby to run her own B&B. Her best friend Effie has a junk shop next door, and the two ladies enjoy going out for meals together. But they keep running up against strange happenings, which complicate their calm lives and may even lead to the revealing of Brenda’s own darkest secret.
This is a cheerfully Gothic novel, which turns dark classic tales (Frankenstein, War of the Worlds, Dracula) and adds a dash whimsy. I wasn’t surprised to see that Magrs has written Doctor Who novels and plays. The tone is very similar.
The book has an episodic structure, with each chapter describing a different problem or adventure that Brenda and Effie encounter. There’s the deadly spa that literally takes years off clients’ lives. There’s the unusual family that comes to stay at Brenda’s B&B. There’s the psychic reality show that comes to investigate Effie’s shop. There are the mysterious disappearances of the waiters/elves who work at the Christmas Hotel. And there’s the suave hotel guest, Mr. Alucard. Each incident just about stands on its own, but together, they all build up to a big showdown and some big decisions for Brenda and Effie.
This book is the first in a series, and I can see how these characters would be fun to follow. Alas, my library doesn’t carry the series, and the books don’t appear to be easy to get here in the U.S. And I didn’t love it quite enough to put in a big effort to get more. If I run across them someday, I’d happily give them a try.