When famed psychic Perspicacious Peg predicts a murder will occur at England’s Belief and Beyond conference, her science-minded colleagues recruit twenty-six-year-old budding sleuth Emily Castles to attend the event as a “future crimes investigator.” The suspected victim: celebrated magician Edmund Zenon, who plans to perform a daring stunt at the conference—and is offering fifty thousand pounds to any attendee who can prove that the paranormal exists.
In the seaside town of Torquay, Emily meets a colorful cast of characters: dramatic fortune-teller Madame Nova; kindly Bobby Blue Suit and his three psychic dachshunds; Sarah and Tim Taylor, devastated parents mourning their late son; and religious cult members Hilary, Trina, and the Colonel. Tensions rise as believers in science, the supernatural, and the spiritual clash with one another. But once a body count begins, Emily must excuse herself from the séances and positivity circles, and use old-fashioned detective work to find the killer.
Hmmm, I’m not sure what to say about Beyond Belief. It didn’t elicit any big reactions from me one way or the other. The writing was fine. The characters were what you would expect, funny and quirky in the typical British fashion. Unfortunately, none of them really resonated. As I have said before, if I don’t connect with at least one character in a book, I tend to struggle with the book as a whole. This one was no different.
I have not read any of Helen Smith’s other Emily Castles Mystery series, so I felt a bit lost at the beginning of this book. Usually mysteries are somewhat self-contained and you don’t need to read the others to catch on. Once I got into the book a bit, it was fine, but there were definitely some references I didn’t get. For instance, Emily’s colleagues kept referencing her dead dog (supposedly her spirit guide). Emily would then deny he was her spirit guide. I just felt like there was a lot more to that story. I really wanted there to be a dead dog spirit guide, but he never showed. There were also colleagues and a possible love interest who were obviously in previous books. I guess this is my fault for jumping into the middle of a series, but like I said, usually mysteries are little more self-contained and I didn’t think it would be a problem.
One of the biggest issues I had with the book was that the description led me to believe there would be some supernatural activity, and there really wasn’t. The characters talked a lot about supernatural activity, but there was no DOING. I kept expecting a big earth shattering event that never came. I was expecting visions of the future, mind reading, psychic dachshunds and palm reading. What I got was a bunch of people speculating about all these things and then solving a murder mystery the old-fashioned way.
On the positive side…the setting of Torquay (pronounced Tor-key) was fabulous. I spent 3 1/2 months in England through a school exchange program and stayed in the little seaside town of Exmouth which is right up the coast from Torquay. The description of the town, the crazy named businesses, and the talk of clotted cream and scones made me quite nostalgic.
Overall, Beyond Belief left me flat. The book description sounded wonderful. I was simply disappointed when it didn’t live up to said description.
I’d like to give a shout out to Netgalley.com, Thomas & Mercer and Helen Smith for giving me the opportunity to read and review this ARC.