I live in one of Raleigh’s historic neighborhoods where the thrill of the holidays is hard to escape around this time of the year. So it felt like a happy coincidence when I picked up Karen White’s newest novel, Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street, which is not only set in a historic and festive neighborhood but also has the romance, drama, and a healthy dose of supernatural that (thankfully) is lacking in mine.
Set in Charleston, South Carolina, on the historic street which boasts one of the largest concentrations of early 18th century homes, Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street is White’s 6th novel in the New York Times bestselling Tradd Street series. It’s female protagonist, Melanie Trenholm, is a realtor with a sweet tooth, and a gift of seeing the dead. The latter specifically making up the many adventures and misadventures in the previous books in the Tradd Street series.
Where we find Melanie now is as a wife of the famous true-crime-history author, Jack Trenholm – who, thanks to White’s generous descriptions, seems every bit like the Ryan Gosling type to me – and also a mother to 20-month-old twins JJ and Sarah, and a 16-year-old step-daughter Nola. Having lived through enough excitement to last her a lifetime, including finding the Confederate jewels in the previous book, all Melanie wants is to live a normal life in her beautiful historic home.
But when a centuries old cistern is discovered in her own garden, new ghosts and clues start to appear. This time, it’s a hidden treasure from 1778 from the French King to support the American fight against the British. Somehow, the Trenholms are not the only ones who know about it. Jack’s Nemesis Marc Longo (who lost the battle of the Confederate jewels) is willing to do absolutely anything to win this time and claim the treasure and a book-deal.
Amidst all this paranormal activity and scavenger hunting, there is also the progressive dinner Melanie is (reluctantly) hosting in her home for a Christmas fundraiser. White adds a good dose of fun via witty and eccentric characters who are helping Melanie organize and decorate. My favorite being the housekeeper who seems ancient (came with the house, as Melanie puts it), and Dr. Sophie Wallen-Arasi, a professor of historic preservation with questionable choice in fashion.
The mysteries unfold slowly, as White gives plenty of clues but not all the answers. It took me back to my childhood days of reading Nancy Drew novels; the thrill of the chase very much being shared by the characters in the story and the reader herself. For someone who is just now jumping on the Tradd Street series bandwagon, I was also thankful of how well White connected the previous storylines without compromising the plots of the other books. If anything, the details are tantalizing enough to read the rest of them too.
One minor issue I have with the story is how often Melanie seems insecure and doubtful of herself. She is easily jealous when she sees her younger sister Jayne playing with her kids, and often wonders if she is pretty enough to be Jack’s wife, or whether she is smart enough to recognize all the clues. This is one place where I felt like I could have benefited from knowing more about Melanie from the previous books, however, this Christmas-themed story can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.
Overall, Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street is a fun read for anyone who loves a good mystery. Even if you aren’t into supernatural stories, there are plenty of strong female characters, drama, romance, backstabbing, and treasure hunting to make this one a page turner. As an added bonus, it is a great insight into Charleston’s history and holiday traditions as well.
Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, Dreams of Falling, The Night the Lights Went Out, Flight Patterns, The Sound of Glass, A Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the co-author of The Forgotton Room and The Glass Ocean with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.
Buy The Book