Claire Bennett wins the lottery and already knows what she wants to do with the money. She’s been visiting Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands for years now, and she has a ruined building in mind to restore and live in. Everyone seems set against her goals, though, from the seller of the building to her own aunt and father. Independent, unattached, and determined Claire purchases the ruin and immediately moves to Fuerteventura to begin restoration. Strange tales abound about the future Casa Bennett, but Claire proceeds with her work.
What is Clarissa’s Warning about?
This book is a lot of things. Ostensibly, the book is about Claire winning the lottery and moving from England to Fuerteventura, in the Canary Islands. She has her sights set on a ruined casa that she’s able to purchase. Despite resistance from her family to let her leave and from the owner selling the property, Claire is determined that this is what she wants. It takes a while, but soon she manages to find a local contractor who’ll assemble a team and begin rapid work on restoring her home immediately. With a warning from her aunt Clarissa always in the back of her head, a series of unfortunate mishaps and the emotional journey of returning to a childhood trauma begin to plague Claire.
Genre: Ghost Story
This book isn’t so much mystery as ghost story. Claire isn’t particularly concerned with unraveling the story of her home until it becomes unavoidable. She only really pursues research and solutions when something specific happens that requires addressing. Otherwise, she would be happy to just renovate her home and move in.
Tropes: Catharsis, Traumatized Ghosts
The ghosts involved in this story are tragic. Their story is barely explored (which I found annoying) but what is revealed is incredibly heartbreaking. Similarly, Claire gains catharsis over a childhood trauma she’s apparently been repressing for years. She spends a lot of time thinking on things she’s been avoiding, and she comes out of it emotionally stronger. Though it’s very weird how she does it (more on that later).
Plot: Home and Garden Channel’s Guide to Ghosts
So much of this book is dedicated to Claire’s renovation. The details of it, the way she gardens, how much stuff she buys, how difficult it is to find laborers… Yes there’s also her fling with Paco, but even then she and Paco discuss the house often. This really is a home renovation story with a sprinkling of ghostly activity.
Claire was a decent protagonist. She’s no-nonsense and she’s at least a little aware of the fact that she’s a white British woman coming into a Spanish colonial territory to renovate a home owned by a wealthy family that lorded over the poor inhabitants of the island. Her self awareness extends to what she can and can’t do in the renovating itself, and she quickly comes to term with how much contributing she will be able to actually do beyond the finances. I also enjoyed her relationship with Paco, which was casual at first and grew into a clear genuine friends-to-lovers situation.
There were some aspects of the story that started out interesting but ultimately came to nothing or I felt were unresolved. Olivia Stone, a travel writer that Paco fixates on as a potential ghostly resident of Claire’s home, was one of them. While Claire explores her life quite a bit, they wrap up with the ultimately disappointing conclusion that the previously seemingly well researched article that led to Paco’s fascination was false. This narrative ends up serving more for Paco’s characterization in the romantic subplot than really presenting any interesting information to the reader or Claire for that matter. Additionally, the other notable residents of Claire’s home–a family of wealthy landowners that moved in over a hundred years prior–were underdeveloped. The story was spread in whispers and barely researched at all, yet turned out to be true on a wing and a prayer. It was a truly tragic story that was never explored beyond giving Claire some negative feelings about her house and then the ultimate climax of the story vaguely involving them.
I hate cliffhanger endings. Sure enough, just like Blackthorn’s A Prison in the Sun this one ended with a cliffhanger ending. Although Claire and Paco appear in that book, I still have no idea what the resolution to the cliffhanger in this one was and it frustrated me enough to honestly ruin the whole reading experience.
This book is a good standalone and I appreciate the tie in it has with the other book in the series I’ve read. Claire was an enjoyable main character, even though I found that the grieving period she has was a bit too spontaneous and equally too short lived. It would have been more interesting as a character development if the grief had been stretched across more of the book. I also think the ghosts and their story could have been explored so much more and the book was left lacking for all the focus that isn’t trained their way. This book had a lot of “almost there” qualities where the solid ideas throughout it were almost developed enough to be good, but mostly felt lacking. Additionally, the ending was another horrible cliffhanger with no promise of resolution.