I’m certainly not the first author to create an amateur sleuth who raises the dead. But in the Lavington Windsor series, our jobbing necromancer Toni gets to ask the murder victims who killed them, and I had so much fun creating situations where the poor old shambling corpses didn’t have a clue who had bumped them off or why. Toni always gets her man, or woman, but often her ravenous moldering zombies are more trouble than help on the way.
In a lot of ghostly tales, though, the murder victims know exactly who wiped them off this mortal coil and they are keen to right wrongs and reap revenge. I’ve picked out some of my favourites, so here are five ghostly tales where a dead person solves their own murder…
Hamlet by William Shakespeare
We sometimes forget just how much fantasy good old Will Shakespeare wrote. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of fairies and spells, while The Tempest features wizards, monsters and spirits.
But Hamlet is not merely a ghost story with added witches; it’s also a whodunit that only gets solved because the murder victim’s phantom reveals all to his son on the spooky gothic ramparts… Oh yes, and everyone dies.
Ghost Story by Jim Butcher
Very suitably, this is the 13th book in The Dresden Files, which catalogue the (mis)adventures of Chicago wizard Harry Dresden.
In this volume, poor old Harry is dead as a doornail after being murdered, but returns as a spirit to solve the case.
Many magical Chicago shenanigans ensue. If you are an audiobook afficionado, this series is an absolute treat because they are all narrated by the silver-tongued James Marsters, formerly Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Swoon.
Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella
This is an unexpected gem. It’s so light and fluffy that the poignancy of the end will catch you unawares.
Great Aunt Sophie is dead, but once upon a time she was a gin-swilling, pearl-twirling lass who liked boys, pretty dresses, parties and dancing. And now she has to persuade her hapless niece to work out what happened so that her spirit can move on.
If you only know Sophie Kinsella from her Shopaholic books, this will come as a delight.
Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card
Warning – this book is very, very dark, and the ending is far from happy.
Who are Stevie’s imaginary friends, and why do they share the same names as children who have mysteriously “vanished”? The answer is Not Good and no one lives happily ever after.
Scott Card has claimed that many elements of M. Night Shyamalan’s film The Sixth Sense were plagiarised from this book, and it’s easy to see why. Creepy as hell and definitely not holiday reading.
Wyrd Sisters by Terry Pratchett
It’s a bit of a cheat to also include this wonderful book by the late great Terry Pratchett, because it’s very much a spoof of Hamlet, but I also couldn’t miss it out because it’s completely adorable.
Poor old King Verence has been slain by his own cousin, and it’s up to the three least-wicked witches the Discworld has ever scene to sort out the ensuing mess… Cue cauldrons, black crepe, Greebo the cat and a wonderfully unlikely romance.
Grave Danger by Alice James is out now. Order your copy here.