Take a luxury resort, add a little bit of romance, a murder, some human suspects, a bunch of ghosts and you have the makings of California Ghosting.
Never having read anything by author William Hill, it was this combination that drew me to his latest novel. I found his blending of all facets created a storyline that would keep you in suspense up until the very end.
The story centers around Ghostal Shores, a coastal resort north of the San Francisco Bay which offers its guests a most unusual hook...ghosts. In building the resort, the owners used bricks which came from deserted boom towns and the spirits came with the bricks. This wasn't discovered until the opening of Ghostal Shores, when the group of spectres made their totally unexpected appearance.
Of course, the haunted hotel is a huge success as visitors from all walks of life; business people to psychics, come to mingle with the apparitions. In the beginning, ghosts and hotel staff work and live together harmoniously. Patrons of the establish-ment are delighted with the idea of being served (by ghostly bartenders and bellmen) and entertained by the ethereal inhabitants of Ghostal Shores. Owners Peter (Mac) MacGuire and Sean Heller, reap the rewards of this arrangement.
When MacGuire turns up dead and some really malicious spirits start arriving; trouble begins with a capital "T and "G. The cast of characters is somewhat long, since suspects include humans and spectres. In the beginning you might have some trouble keeping track of who's who and characters are being introduced until you're about halfway through the story.
However, Hill's characters have plenty of depth, personality and a quality of realism that makes it easy to visualize each one, including the ghosts. The romance between the nephew of the murdered owner (Blasing Madera, who at first doesn't really believe in ghosts) and the murdered man's attorney (Angela Starborne), builds slowly throughout the story without seeming out of place as they search for the killer's identity, motive, purpose of the outlaw ghosts arrival and the mysterious disappearance of many of the resort's resident spooks.
Blasing's acceptance, concern and understanding of the spirits is a gradual unfolding throughout the story. His final championing of the ghosts also brings them to his aid when he needs their help.
At more than 500 pages, the story reads fairly quickly since you won't want to put it down for very long after you've started.
Hill writes to every detail so the reader is never left guessing about where they are in the story. He uses plenty of 'voice' in his descriptions, so the reader feels the character's pain, sorrow and even terror. An example is when two of the ghosts are 'killed' by one of the malevolent newcomers and the remainder of the resident ghosts are 'hunted' by the outlaws.
Hill has used his vivid imagination and combined a number of elements to create a good suspense novel. For myself, it is definitely worth a second read. The story will make you laugh, cry, cheer, and even shudder, as you go California Ghosting.
Used availability for William D Hill's California Ghosting
June 1998 : USA Spiral-bound
January 1998 : USA Paperback
September 1998 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition