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The Book of Illumination: A Novel from the Ghost Files    by Mary Ann Winkowski & Maureen Foley order for
Book of Illumination
by Mary Ann Winkowski
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Book of Illumination, a mix of cozy mystery and ghost story, is a debut collaboration between paranormal investigator Mary Ann Winkowski - author of When Ghosts Speak and consultant for the CBS series The Ghost Whisperer - and film writer, producer and director Maureen Foley (American Wake and Home Before Dark).

Their protagonist, Anza O'Malley, is a single mom who lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she freelances as a bookbinder and has a most unusual (and delightful) relationship with her five-year-old son's father Declan (with whom she had a brief fling) - and with the police officer's wife Kelly as well. In fact Kelly treats Anza's son Henry just like her own two daughters Delia and Nell. Given Kelly's tolerance of the situation, Anza works hard to subdue her attraction to Declan. Anza has a special talent that she inherited from her Nona (who trained her how to use it) - she sees spirits, can communicate with them, and is able to help them to the other side once the problems that held them earthbound are resolved.

This story begins when Anza is called by her best friend Nat, who asks her to help a fellow bookbinder, Sylvia Cremaldi, deal with rambunctious ghosts at the Boston Athenaeum. Sylvia was hired by wealthy John Winslow before he died, to restore a collection of books that has now been donated to the Athenaeum; she's continuing the work there. The collection includes an illuminated manuscript that Sylvia believes to be the priceless Book of Kildare. The find has been kept secret and Sylvia has hidden the manuscript in the Athenaeum. Now the ghosts of two medieval monks are causing havoc. They insist on talking to a fellow cleric rather than to Anza, a mere woman.

Sylvia also takes Anza to the Winslow mansion where she encounters the genial ghost of an elderly butler, who's been seeking the deed of a house in Swansea. She resolves to help him. The plot soon thickens when the manuscript is stolen, and Anza enlists Declan to help track it down, under official radar. Of course they succeed (with some ghostly help) and uncover long term thefts and blackmail as well as the manuscript. Though I enjoyed the mystery, what I liked most - and what makes The Book of Illumination stand out - are the joyous and credible details of mother/child interactions between Anza and Henry. I hope to read more of them.

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