05 November 2010
Maybe This Time by Jennifer Crusie
Year of publication: 2010
Setting & time: Ohio, USA, 1992
Andie Miller is trying to tie up some loose ends in her life before accepting her boyfriend's proposal of marriage, but when she goes to see her ex-husband, North Archer, to return to him 10 years worth of uncashed alimony checks, he surprises her by offering her a hefty sum of money to go and look after his wards, two orphaned children, in an isolated house for a month. The children seem afraid to leave the house and the last nanny who went to look after them fled, claiming it was haunted.
Andie immediately clashes with the creepy housekeeper and discovers that there are indeed ghosts in the house. When various people, including North, a ratings-hungry TV reporter, a sceptical parapsychologist and a psychic, descend on the house with different purposes in mind, the ghosts get restless, and it is going to take more than just a séance to put things to rights.
This is not the best Crusie novel I have read, but it is not the worst either. As always, the writing is solid and skilful, but for some reason I was unable to connect with either North or Andie. North is not as well fleshed out as he should be - his cardboard content is a bit too high for my taste - and Andie is just a slightly better tempered, more stable version of Cranky Agnes from Agnes and the Hitman. The attractively ugly animals were getting a bit tired, so it was a joy to see them left out entirely. The ghosts are well-done and the story is full of the usual twists and turns and it gets truly spooky towards the end. This is a well written and interesting modern take on The Turn of the Screw, but for the reasons stated above I can only give it 3 stars.