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Reviewed by Lit Amri for Readers' Favorite
In Countenance by Joy Ross Davis, 38-year-old Nealey Monaghan's life is turned upside-down when her husband Hank, their two children Nicholas and Lauren, and her sister Naomi are killed by Naomi’s estranged ex-husband. A year later, her charmingly eccentric and cookbook author Aunt Sylvie Wolcott made her co-owner of the Playhouse Inn Bed and Breakfast in the hills of Tennessee, hoping it would help Nealey start living her life again. However, Nealey is about to find out that it isn’t easy to run the business, especially with the inn’s ghostly tenants.
There is history as well as secrets to be discovered and the arrival of a guest named Max Leighton makes everything more complicated. I love a good mystery, and Davis did well to entice readers with the secrets that Sylvie is about to share with her niece. Before her death, Nealey’s mother made her daughter swear not to go back to Playhouse Inn. Intriguingly, something happened to her mother when she and Nealey spent the night at the inn.
The characterization is good; Sylvie, Benton, brothers Worthy and Noble, the ghosts, as well as Lulu the Irish wolfhound (my favorite member of the group) make an odd but intriguing ensemble. The prose is evocative; the description of the inn is wonderful and it makes me want to go there myself. Some parts of the story progress at an unhurried pace, but the twists and turns of the central characters will keep readers engrossed. It’s a great mix of good versus evil and a ghost story. On the whole, Countenance is a solid novel from Davis.