Title: The Pit and the Passion: Murder at the Ghost Hotel
Author: M. S. Spencer
Genre: Mystery, Romance
At midnight, in the darkness of a deserted hotel, comes a scream and a splash. Eighty-five years later, workmen uncover a skeleton in an old elevator shaft. Who is it, and how did it get there? To find out, Charity Snow, ace reporter for the Longboat Key Planet, teams up with Rancor Bass, best-selling author. A college ring they find at the dig site may prove to be their best clue.
Although his arrogance nearly exceeds his talent, Charity soon discovers a warm heart beating under Rancor’s handsome exterior. While dealing with a drop-dead gorgeous editor who may or may not be a villain, a publisher with a dark secret, and an irascible forensic specialist, Charity and Rancor unearth an unexpected link to the most famous circus family in the world.
Excerpt (G): The Apparition
Charity nursed her drink. She didn’t have to wait long. An agitated Rancor, his face as white as cotton wool, tottered to the table. “What is it?”
“Oh my God. I saw him! I saw Tommy, Charity!”
He slumped down on the chair, then leaned forward and snatched her wine from her hand, downing it in one swallow. “He was…he was sitting there, calm as you please. When he saw me—” He gulped for air.
“What do you mean, he saw you? Don’t ghosts just have eye sockets?”
“Not this one. He had coal black eyes and…and they flashed. He was angry, Charity. Angry at me.”
“Did he talk?”
“Of course not. He’s a ghost. Honestly, haven’t you read anything about ghosts?”
Charity took a deep breath. “Okay, tell me what happened.”
“Well, he saw me and pulled himself up. He wore torn overalls and a cotton shirt.”
“The scrap of denim.”
Rancor nodded. “He opened his mouth as though he were yelling, but no sound came out. He took a step toward me and fell over. That’s when I saw he only had one leg.”
“That’s right—they had to cut it off to get him out of the pit.”
“Yes. He lay there, his hand outstretched toward me, his mouth gaping like a dying mackerel. Charity, he wanted something from me.”
“His toy. The ring.”
“Wow. How did he know I have it?”
Charity gave him a disgusted look. “Hello?”
“Oh.” Rancor held up two fingers. The bartender nodded and began to mix another martini. “Do you suppose Tommy took the ring from the dead man?”
“He must have.” Charity mused. “But the other body arrived later, after Tommy—I mean Theodore— after they took his body away.”
“But his ghost still haunted the pit.”
“And when Biddlesworth decided to sublet, he came out.”
“Spotted the restaurant and decided the men’s room would be preferable to being buried alive.”
“A ghost can’t be buried alive.”
“True.” Rancor scratched his chin. “So, first order of business is to find out when the other one died.”
“What did Standish say? Early thirties. It had to have been after 1931 because of the ring inscription. How long ago was that?”
“Math’s not your strong point I see. Eighty-five years.”
“When did the Chart House open?”
“Not sure.” He accepted the martini from the assistant manager. “Nathan, any idea when this place was built?”
“Before my time. I’ll go ask Walter.” He returned a minute later. “Walter says 1988. He knows ’cause he was one of the first people they hired. Started as a dishwasher, and now”—his face suffused with pride—“he’s the executive manager.”
Charity sipped her water. “So the man was killed sometime between 1931 and 1988.”
“Now you’re being ridiculous. What did you get on your SATs? Twelve? Professor Standish said the skeleton was around eighty years old. So he must have died at the latest in the 1940s.” She giggled.
“What’s so funny?”
“I wonder why he doesn’t haunt the men’s room as well?”
“Apparition rules. The nether world is just as overregulated as this one. Only one ghost per hundred square feet. He probably haunted the parking lot.”
“But if Tommy T left the pit in the thirties, what did he do before the restaurant was built?”
“How the hell would I know?” He checked his watch and tossed off his drink. “We’ve got to go.”
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Why is your featured book a must-read?
I love the characters in this book, particularly Rancor Bass. He’s so deliciously awful. If you like men who are funny, eccentric, fascinating, and irritating, you’ll love Rancor. Plus if you’re intrigued by circus history, Florida stories, amateur sleuths, and whodunits, you’ll love this book. If you don’t believe me, how about the famous Rochelle Weber?
“The Pit and the Passion was a wonderful romp through the keys on the West Coast of Florida, Paris, London, and even Seattle with a truly fun and funny heroine, and an absolutely frustrating…leading man.”
Enter to win an e-book bundle of all 42 books featured in the Mystery and Suspense Bookish Event: https://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/92db775071 Open Internationally. Runs August 11 – 17, 2020. Winner will be drawn on August 24, 2020.
Librarian, anthropologist, research assistant, Congressional aide, speechwriter, nonprofit director—M. S. Spencer has lived or traveled in five of the seven continents. She holds a BA