Nearly Departed in Deadwood was not what I was expecting. Between the cover, the title, and the paranormal tags, I was expecting zombies and some sort of mad necromancer tied into a mystery with missing kids. And with the early set up of the crusty, old guy who lives way out of town in a farm house with a huge pile of shot guns, hearing odd sounds coming from out behind his barn, I was planning out how the main characters were going to end up holing up there, with the huge arsenal and blasting the hell out of the zombies.
But, title, cover, and tags aside, this is a romantic mystery. Violet Parker has returned to Deadwood, SD. She's starting life over again, got her realtor's license, and moved herself and her kids in with her aunt. And so far, this new life is none too rosy. She's got an absolute asshole co-worker, who rapidly jumps up to the top of everyone's better off dead list, (I was looking forward to seeing the zombies eat him, alas, no zombies.) a completely empty appointment book, and if she doesn't sell a house in three weeks, she'll get fired. On top of it, little girls are going missing. Three of them in the last year. And they all look a whole lot like her daughter. In a town as small as Deadwood, Violet's worried for her own daughter's safety.
Then, within one day, things start to look up. Men (and real estate clients) start pouring from the sky. The aforementioned crusty, old guy from out on the plains is looking to sell. One of the richest men in town walks into Calamity Jane Real Estate, asking for her to sell his house. He's tall, blonde, gorgeous, and runs a jewelry store that makes its own pieces. Basically, he's perfect. Alas, the house is not. It's old, decrepit, spooky, rumored to be haunted, and before she can even start to see about fixing it up to sell, she's got weeks' worth of paperwork to do with the town because it's a protected historic building. The tall, dark, and handsome mystery man from the store next door decides he's in the market for a house, too. And then, on top of all of that, she starts getting mystery presents from a secret admirer. A really creepy secret admirer.
So, all the characters are in play. The two main plotlines, tall, dark, and handsome or tall, blond, and gorgeous, and what is happening to the little girls get running and twist together. Like any good mystery we get some red herrings, and, of course, the real herring is wearing a tuna costume, so you can't tell he's the one until the last possible second.
If you want a mystery you could possibly solve on your own, this isn't it. At all. Obviously, because of the way it's set up, Violet is going to figure out who is kidnapping the girls, which means it has to be someone else we meet along the way. But beyond knowing it's got to be one of the characters, the reader is left in the dark.
The romance swims along prettily. Tension builds nicely. Jewelry designer or mystery man? Ahh... to have such options. The sex was erotic and well written: no clichés, anatomical impossibilities, or off putting euphemisms. I would have liked to have seen a bit more of it, but given the time frame of the story and nature of the characters, the amount we got was just right.
The writing and dialog runs the gamut of competent to exemplary. The plot had at least one more thread than was necessary, but it might come into play in the next book of the series. Characters are especially well developed, with even the secondary and tertiary characters being fully drawn and alive. And for the serious romance fans it has to be a happily for now instead of happily ever after because this is book one of a series. For the most part, I was very satisfied by this story.
My main complaint, and this probably won't continue onto the next book in the series, is it's not really paranormal. It's not enough to have a paranormal aspect of the book; it has to actually do something with the plot. The expectation of paranormal lends a tension to the story that is never brought to fruition. Now, since this is book one, this is probably just the set up round, and it will come into play more heavily in the next books, but for this one, the psychic ability of the one character isn't really necessary. The fact that he can talk to dead people is entirely extraneous for the plot of this story. That he can do this being kept hidden for so long is also not necessary.
But if you like romantic mysteries with a tinge of paranormal creepiness, this one is well worth your time.