I enjoyed this novel for what it is, but I will note that I think this novel fits a very particular group of readers, and I’m likely not the target audience. Ghostly Command, the first of the Joanna Davis novels, sets up the story of a middle-aged, divorced woman who is a writer, a mother, a small-town community staple, and heavily involved in renovating her home. I will admit that for me, the novel was a bit cloggy and hard to get through at times, in large part because of the way the story was set up. It felt that Joanna’s every action, every thought, was shared. In truth, I feel like there’s a good 100 pages or so that are completely unnecessary, doing nothing to drive the story along. As a writer myself, this really got to me. I found myself searching for the reason behind each scene. While some scenes were obviously needed, leaving key points of information (I was able to guess the perpetrator early on, which is one of the things I didn’t like about the novel), others seemed to be the mundane daily life of Joanna Davis. It got to drag on, the amount of small talk, and there were pages that felt like the conversations repeated themselves.
I really enjoyed the use of Joanna’s handyman as another point of view, and their friendship was one I was eager to read more of. I adored the scene between himself and his wife, and his reaction in the end was well done. R. K. O’Brien has no issue in crafting lovable characters. I was so excited whenever Joanna’s kids popped up, eager to learn more about them. I found I didn’t really enjoy the scenes of Joanna’s little meetups with those who knew about ghosts and paranormal activity. It just felt like it didn’t add much and wasn’t very memorable.
Dialogue was stiff at times, but overall, I could see the author in the work, and Joanna felt like a realistic portrayal. For me, it was an average read, but I can see how many would connect here. It’s not every day you read about an older woman harnessing her inherent gift in speaking to spirits to solve a murder! There are many parts that were truly charming, and I think most of the downfalls came in the pacing of the novel. I would recommend this novel for people who would like to try a cozy mystery without too much heavy action, or people who believe in mediums and paranormal powers!