BY: BEV IRWIN

Fifteen-year-old Daria Brennan doesn’t want to hear people’s thoughts. She doesn’t want to see ghosts—or talk to dead people. And she definitely doesn’t want to help solve a forty-year old murder.

But Amanda wants revenge, and Daria is the first human contact she’s had since the day she died. Now the killer is after Daria and her friends. Can they solve Amanda’s murder before becoming his next victims?

TAYLOR JONES SAYS: Ghostly Justice by Bev Irwin is one of those books that can easily span the bridge between YA and adult fiction. Though the characters are teenagers and still in high school, like Harry Potter and Twilight, the story is fascinating enough to appeal to much broader audiences. Our heroine, Daria, is young, but she’s also spunky, creative, clever, and reluctantly courageous—my favorite kind of gal. And she is most definitely not pleased when she discovers that she is psychic and can talk to ghosts. Well, one ghost, at least. A pushy but charming ghost named Amanda latches onto Daria and demands that she help solve Amanda’s forty-year-old murder. Daria says no way, but in spite of herself, she is too kindhearted—and Amanda is too much of a pest—for Daria to turn her back and just walk away.

Irwin has added a well-rounded cast of secondary characters to help Daria in her quest, and together with a strong plot, excellent dialogue and a few surprises along the way, they all combine to make this book a very enjoyable read.

REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Ghostly Justice was not quite what I expected when I learned it was YA. Even though the characters are teens, the subject matter—some of it anyway—was very adult. However, Bev Irwin seems to be a talented author and handled the sensitive issues with the same aplomb with which she did the scenes where her teenage characters break into an abandoned house. Daria, our very reluctant heroine, doesn’t want to be special. She especially doesn’t want to talk to dead people or to hear her best friend’s thoughts. Like most teenagers, Daria just wants to be normal. She wants to keep clear of her mom’s creepy boyfriend, snag a hot, sexy boyfriend of her own—who doesn’t—and to be left in peace. But the neighborhood ghost, Amanda, has other ideas. Amanda was murdered four decades earlier and she’s still pissed about it. She’s been trying for forty years to make contact with someone who can help her get revenge. So when she connects with Daria, Amanda’s not about to back off until she gets what she wants. Remember the old college stories about guys who used to sing some stupid song over and over and over under some poor girl’s window, until the girl was so exasperated and desperate for sleep that she agreed to go out with him? Well, Amanda’s kind of like that—the guy, not the poor girl—and she makes a total pest of herself until Daria finally agrees to help. It’s not that Daria isn’t brave or caring. She just has this thing about basements. And danger. And…well, talking to ghosts, in general. Who can blame her, after all?

The other characters in the book are equally well-developed and three-dimensional, the plot has some very nice twists and turns, and Irwin’s writing is superb. I thoroughly enjoyed Ghostly Justice.

PROLOGUE

AMANDA

After all these years, I could finally feel something. It was as if a jolt of electricity surged through me, and my heart almost began to beat again.

At first, I didn’t know what caused it. I only knew an undeniable force drew me to my bedroom window. With each step, the tingle of fingernails tracking down my spine increased. The thought passed through me, maybe I should be afraid. But really, what was there to be afraid of? It couldn’t get worse. What’s worse than being dead?

I floated toward the window. Two girls were walking in front of the house. They looked about my age, maybe younger – fifteen, sixteen. I was drawn to the one with the dark curly hair. Her friend called her Daria. I reached out my hand, called her name. She looked up at the window. She sensed me. I knew it. I saw her shudder, but she kept walking.

I watched until they turned the corner at Colburn Street. Then the energy vanished and a profound sadness filled me. Even playing the piano held no joy that day.

I have to talk to her. But how?

I gave up trying to contact the living years ago. It became so tiresome—appearing in front of them, touching them, talking to them, yet never being noticed.

Until now.

Every day, I watch for her. Every day, I try to make contact. Every day I plead for her to look up at my window again. Two weeks have passed now. And every day, she hurries past; her gaze focused on the street ahead.

I must talk to her.

Daria is the first person I’ve been able to communicate with since the day I was murdered.

CHAPTER 1

DARIA

A gorgeous September day and I felt like I’d stepped under an air conditioner cranked to maximum.

I wished Mom hadn’t started on me again. I would have stayed home longer instead of storming out of the house. Not only did I skip out on breakfast, but now I had to wait for Tracy. Mom had been drinking last night and blamed me for the house being so messy. At least she hadn’t accused me of finishing off her bottle of wine. I’d have to clean up the dump when I got home from school. Anything to keep her on an even keel.

A blast of cool air swirled around me. It happened every time I walked down this street. Where is it coming from? Not a single leaf on any of the trees on Colburn Street even so much as fluttered. I studied every house on the block. My gaze paused at a large red brick home set fifty feet back from the street—the old Morrison house.

Overgrown cedars and a five-foot high wooden fence enclosed it on three sides. At the front, a spear-topped wrought iron fence bordered the sidewalk. It reminded me of a southern mansion from some gothic romance novel—dreary, grim, forbidding. I tried to look away, but my head refused to turn.

Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley, again. The first line of one of my favorite books, Rebecca, flashed into my mind. The book had triggered my obsession with architecture. With its turret rooms, lattice windows—overgrown ivy—the Morrison house could pass for a small version of Manderley, secretive and silent, neglected and overgrown.

Another chill. It enveloped me like a shroud. My chest tightened as if slender, frozen fingers reached out for me. A shudder ran down my spine and I forced my gaze away. Like Rebecca, I could swear the house was not an empty shell but lived and breathed and was watching me. Hurry up, Tracy. Guess I should’ve agreed to meet her somewhere else.

Goose bumps covered my arms, but I refused to pull the jacket out of my backpack. The chill would vanish once I reached the end of the block. At least it had every day for the past two weeks. The bumps spread up my arm as another chilly blast hit me. Tracy Peterson, my best friend really liked to go this way. It was shorter. But I was beginning to think I should find another route to school.

I marched backwards until I could see around corner. The street was empty but at least I felt warmer. I looked back down the street. I wish Tracy would get here. That house is creeping me out. I scuffed at a crack in the sidewalk.

“Hey, Daria.” Tracy jogged down the block, her long legs making quick work of the distance between us.

I spot-danced on the sidewalk until she caught up. Another blast of cool air. I shivered again. I glanced back at the Morrison house. I couldn’t shake the feeling it was watching us. It was as if something inhabited those faded brick walls, drawing me in like a fish caught on a lure.

It’s just an old house—nothing wrong with it that a fresh coat of paint and some attention from a handyman couldn’t fix. But that didn’t stop my imagination from racing off on bizarre tangents. I let out a long sigh when Tracy caught up.

“Sorry. Mom made me eat breakfast. She’s on one of her nutrition kicks.”

I rolled my eyes. “So we eat healthy for the next month?”

“Yeah, carrot sticks and apple slices.” She laughed. “I’ll bring the good stuff, you bring the junk food.”

“Deal.” I grinned. But my grin was short-lived. Another blast of cold air hit me as we reached the first wrought-iron fencepost of the Morrison house.

“Are you ready for The Plonzky Quiz?” Tracy asked.

I ignored the goose bumps spreading up my arms and kept my feet moving forward. “Him and his pop quizzes. We just started school two weeks ago. Couldn’t he give us time to settle in?” I grimaced. “I studied for two hours.”

“Me, too, but I’m totally blanking.”

“Yeah right.” I shook my head. “When did you ever see anything on your report card less than 90?”

She pouted for half a second. “You’re no slacker.”

“Yeah.” I rolled my eyes. “But my report cards get a few different numbers.”

Something caught my attention—a movement in one of the upper rooms of the Morrison house. Shading my eyes from the sun’s glare, I stared at the arched window in the left turret room. The blur of a face?

I focused on the window. Was that someone’s head and shoulders? It looked like a woman with long hair. It couldn’t be. The house was empty.

A breeze whooshed around me, bringing with it the scent of lilacs. Where was that coming from? Lilacs bloomed in June not September. I glanced at the ten-foot high lilac bush beside the house. Growing wild, its leaves were green and full, but the blossoms had faded long ago and lay brown and withering on their sterile, broken stems. Coldness surrounded me with a vengeance, its tiny fingers tickling up and down my spine. I looked at Tracy, then back at the window. A now-empty window.

“Daria, you okay? You’re white as a ghost.”

“Probably cause I just saw one.”

“A ghost? Now who’s being the drama queen.”

I laughed nervously. Ghosts weren’t real. I turned my back on the turret window, turned my back on the house, and tried to turn my back on the strange vibes radiating from it. “That house, it’s supposed to be empty, isn’t it?”

“For a couple of months now. The old lady broke her hip. She’s in the hospital.”

Turning sideways, I peeked at the second floor window. “I thought I saw something up there.” I pointed a trembling finger. “At that window.”

Tracy stopped walking and stared at the upper story. “Which one?”

“To the far left. The turret window on the second floor.”

“I don’t see anything.”

I shrugged. “I don’t either, now.”

“Maybe it was the sun hitting the glass.”

“Sure.” I paused, afraid to ask. “Do you smell lilacs?”

Tracy’s eyebrows rose. “Lilacs don’t bloom in September.”

I turned away from the house. “Let’s get out of here.”

When I reached the end of the property, I stole one last look. The window remained empty, yet the feeling of being watched remained.

My imagination is running wild. I still smell lilacs. And isn’t that a piano playing? It sounded like Gram’s favorite song, “Que Sera, Sera.” I gave my head a shake. Just keep walking.

“Daria.” A female voice whispered.

My head jerked as my gaze shot to Tracy. She’d better not be playing tricks on me. But it hadn’t been her voice. Besides she was busy digging gum out of her backpack.

This is crazy. Shifting my own backpack, I walked faster but it wasn’t until I passed the last black iron fence post that I felt warm again. The scent of lilacs faded but the sounds of “Que Sera, Sera” stayed with me.

Did I see a ghost? No. Ghosts aren’t real.

“Come on.” I started running.

“What’s with you?” Tracy jogged beside me.

“I feel like running.” I threw it out as a challenge. “I’ll beat you to school.”

I could never beat those long legs of hers, but hopefully, it would keep my mind off the image in the window and the song replaying in my head. But no matter how fast my feet moved, I couldn’t shake the feeling something bizarre was happening—something totally beyond my control.