Series: Sweet Pepper Fire Mystery #1
Genres: Paranormal Mystery
Published by Berkley on 2 April 2013
That Old Flame of Mine is the first in a new series a starring Stella Griffin, a Fire Chief in the small town of Sweet Pepper, Tennessee. Stella is trying to whip the local volunteer fire fighters into shape when one of her chief supporters, Tory Lambert, dies in a house fire. The arson investigator is willing to declare it an accident but Stella isn’t convinced. Ex-Fire Chief and ghost-in-residence Eric Gamlyn decides to give her a hand.
Stella is passionate about her job and determined to make a difference. She ended up in town after catching her boyfriend cheating on her but what I liked is that she got over it and didn’t spend the novel agonising over her actions or spewing vitriolic opinions. She meets three men who may just influence her to stay in town after her three month contract is up. Cop John Trump takes a shine to her and their relationship looks like improving until he discovers something about her past. He takes a complete 180 degree turn from supportive, rational and caring to judgemental, irrational and mistrustful. I understood why he might have acted this way initially but to keep harping on her past made it difficult to see him as an ideal love interest. I liked Eric the best as he tried not to let his deceased state get in the way of helping Stella. He was able to feed her information she needed to progress to the next level even though he could only manifest at either his cabin (where Stella lives) or the fire station. The third new man in Stella’s life is Ben, the grandfather she never knew she had. Ben is wealthy, morally ambiguous and loathed by Eric. His appearance raised far too many questions that weren’t answered. I would have preferred if he had just been referred to in this novel and then expanded on in later books.
There were actually two mysteries in this book even though they are interrelated. Tory suspected that the fire that killed her husband was arson even though it was ruled and accident. Tory’s death shortly afterwards adds credence to that theory. There was a lot of extraneous stuff that kept drawing my attention away from what should have been the main focus. Unfortunately this influenced the pacing and I found my attention wandering. I don’t know if this meant I missed clues along the way but the villain’s identity seems to come out of nowhere.
This is a light paranormal cozy mystery that gets a little bogged down with everyday life in a small town. I’m interested to see how Stella and Eric’s partnership develops in future novels.