Title: “The Ghost of Gracie Flynn””
Author: Joanna Morrison
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Reviewed by: Sarah Jackson
Engaging. Keeps you guessing right up to the end.
“The Ghost of Gracie Flynn” by Joanna Morrison is the tale of four friends and two untimely and deeply suspicious deaths. Flat mates and best friends Gracie and Robyn meet Cohen and his childhood friend, Sam, at a university student function. The four become fast friends, with Gracie and Cohen forming a strong partnership, and Robyn and Sam a typical student-style dating relationship. When Gracie dies unexpectedly, the grieving friends drift apart and embark on separate lives, new careers, and new relationships.
Eighteen years later, and purely by chance, the three remaining friends find each other again. Robyn, a successful International Correspondent for a major media outlet has returned to Perth to put some mental space between her and the horrors of the stories she has presented in her role. Cohen has settled down with his social influencer wife and is trying to make a living in finance. And Sam, now a successful author, has moved back to Perth with his British wife and newborn. All are at a turning point in their lives and are once again confronted by the mystery surrounding Gracie’s death.
When Sam is unable to manage difficulties in his marriage, he turns to another woman and embarks on a brief but passionate affair. Within hours of separating from his wife, he winds up dead. Another mysterious demise of one of the group of friends.
The plot moves between the time of the death of Gracie (2001) and the death of Sam (2019). The narrative is presented in first person, taking the form of a conversation between the ghost of Gracie Flynn and Isla, the new-born daughter of the second victim, Sam. Gracie explains as simply and clearly as she can, how the friends met, how their relationships developed, what happened in between, and what happened after the friends reunited. It takes a little while to adjust to the changes in time, but the flow of the narrative carries you through. You are kept on your toes, wondering who is responsible for the death of each of the characters, and what will happen to the remaining friends, and of course, to Isla.
The characters are brilliantly presented and believable with their mix of likeable (some more than others), friendly demeanours, their totally human inability to manage their grief and many, many flaws. Especially delightful is Gracie’s description of her love for Cohen and her occasional and fleeting lust-driven sparks of interest in others.
It is great to read a book set in Western Australia (mostly around Perth). The descriptions of place are well-rounded, and you can easily visualise the locations and atmosphere of the scenes.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and loved pretty much everything about it. It is completely engaging, and I can guarantee that you will find it hard to put down.
I received a free copy of this book through Sisters in Crime – Australia, in exchange for a fair and honest review.