Kayanne (Pepper) Connelly is thirteen and about as curious as they come. Her parents have moved into Pebble Brook Lodge in the Santa Cruz area. It had been abandoned years ago and completely rundown. Her parents, both fabulous chefs, were taking on renovating it. Pepper was going to miss her friends over the Christmas holiday, but she didn’t mope around about it. She began investigating her surroundings. When she was afraid she’d become lost, she saw a small cabin in the woods. The woman who answered the door was creepy. The man that followed her as she ran back to the lodge was creepier. She had just met Mrs. Hullett and her grown son, Willie. She found out shortly after that Willie had been accused of drowning his sister in Pebble Brook Lodge back in 1966. He would have only been ten years old then. Mrs. Hullett never forgave him, and is forever sewing a dress for Karen’s birthday.
We find out early on that Pepper is a ‘Ghost Whisperer’. She not only manages to see Karen’s ghost, but three other ghosts who took up residence at Pebble Brook Lodge. One of the ghosts is much more dangerous; he’s the one she needs to be especially careful of. Pepper gets to know Willie more as time goes on, and begins to realize what a gentle spirit he is. He carves the most beautiful animal creatures. With the help of the ghosts in the house, she sets out to prove he didn’t kill his sister.
I really loved this story. It’s part of a series, but can be read as a standalone. The characters are vibrant. The descriptive time change that Pepper experiences are critical to the story and Ms. Covella does a wonderful job of placing the reader back in 1966 as well as other time periods. The only thing that felt like more of a stretch to me was the river that ran through the dining area of Pebble Brook Lodge. A nice image, but how realistic would that be? This is a preteen mystery and I really believe that age group would thoroughly enjoy this. There’s a scene of Pepper with her friend, Ally, and a Ouija board which will stick with me. It seemed the ghost was suggesting for her to find and destroy a certain book. When she asked for clarification if the book should be destroyed, “The pointer flew to the word ‘No.’ Then to ‘Yes.’ Then it went faster and faster and faster, skidding between the two words yes no yes no yes no …” Rating: 4 out of 5.
EDIT: The author commented that there is a real Brookdale Lodge in the Santa Cruz Mountains that inspired her story. It truly has a creek running through the middle of the dining room. Here is a link to pictures on her website : https://lindacovella.com/ghost-whisperer-series/the-ghosts-of-pebble-brook-lodge/. So, it is not only realistic; it has been done.