Marley Parker is at it again in the second instalment of her young adult mystery series, A Rumour of Ghosts by Maria Sigle. Marley is a journalism student at Greenbriar University and daughter of the county sheriff. Still recovering from solving her last case, she has become something of a local celebrity after uncovering that the town’s mayor had been responsible for the death of her mother more than a decade earlier. This time, she matches wits with a psychopath attacking girls around the campus of Greenbriar University. With a friend caught in the crossfire, can she stop this maniac before he returns to finish the job? Will a mysterious stranger prove to be her best ally, or the maniac himself?
Marley Parker: A Rumour of Ghosts is full of twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing. Just when you think the plot is heading in a certain direction, something will happen that turns everything on its head. In a novella filled with ghosts and larger than life characters and situations, this element adds a touch of realism. The characters are not infallible. They can, and often do, make mistakes and let their emotions cloud their judgement. Marley Parker is, fundamentally, led by her emotions, whether it is out of loyalty to friends and family, anger at an injustice, or her fatal attractions. She acts impulsively, sometimes getting the better of a situation, and sometimes getting herself into hot water.
There are two plot strains running through the book: in one, Marley Parker tracks down a psycho stalker, and in the other, she helps uncover the cause of a haunting at a local hotel called the Brass Lantern Inn. Neither is necessarily linked, but the characters intertwine and one case pulls her attention away from the other. At the Brass Lantern Inn, Marley enlists the help of Larry “Weenie” Watson, an old high school acquaintance who now heads a paranormal investigation team called The Skeleton Crew. Weenie is by far one of the funniest characters in the book, and the author does a great job lampooning the image cultivated by some paranormal investigators. He does, however, prove to be useful in helping Marley solve that mystery.
As in the first book in the series, the most vividly developed scenes revolve around Marley getting together with her family. In Chapter 8, she returns home to have dinner with her father, Sheriff Tony “Tones” Parker, her sister Jade, and Grandpa Frank and Granny Annie. Granny Annie is teaching Grandpa Frank how to play beer pong while Tones cooks pasta with spicy Arrabbiata sauce and homemade spinach pasta and garlic bread (the garlic bread ends up getting burnt). You can feel the warmth and closeness of their family wafting through the scene like the scent of cooking pasta and spices. Throughout the book, Marley will rely heavily on the support of her family.
One of the strong points of the book is that, despite her insistence otherwise, Marley Parker often depends on others for help. She is a strong, intelligent woman who constantly puts herself in dangerous situations for the sake of others, but she knows when she cannot go in alone. When she finally confronts the psychopath stalking coeds around Greenbriar University, her sister is by her side and her friend Fuchsia is on call for backup.
Marley Parker: A Rumour of Ghosts is a much more mature work than the first book in the series, both in terms of writing style and content. I’m looking forward to seeing how some of the loose ends tie up, because just when we think the mystery has been solved, we are left with a cliffhanger ending. I am eager to find out what happens in the next instalment.