Lara Lington has a funeral to go to. She's reluctant, her whole family is to be honest; Great Aunt Sadie was 105 and not in contact with, or visited by anyone in the family in the old people's home she lived in. The funeral is thus very sparsely attended. The end of the ceremony is approaching when Lara suddenly hears a voice asking insistently where her necklace is. Shocked, Lara realises that she's the only one who can hear this voice. Looking around, she tracks the voice to a young woman dressed in the fashion of the 1920s, wandering around the church still asking for her necklace. Realising that Lara can hear her she tells her that *she* is Aunt Sadie and that Lara must stop the funeral until the necklace is found.
Not without some difficulty, Lara manages this but the few people present, including her parents and her uncle's family, think she has gone completely mad. This is mainly due to the fact that Lara broke up with her boyfriend, Josh, recently and won't let go. She's been texting and pestering him and her family think this is unnacceptable behaviour. Lara has further problems with the head-hunting business she started with her best friend, Natalie. Natalie has gone on holiday to Goa, fallen in love there and left Lara holding the fort, where things are not going too well.
Naturally, Lara cannot tell her family that the reason she stopped the funeral was because a 105 year old ghost told her to. Sadie is rather a demanding ghost and wants Lara to find the necklace, so the two set about investigating. Whilst doing so, Sadie sees a man she fancies, American, Ed Harrison, in an office and makes Lara gate-crash the meeting and ask Ed on date. Ed accepts because Sadie yells in his ear and tells him to. But Lara is still trying to get back with Josh, so how is this all going to work exactly?
Lara finds herself in increasingly bizarre situations as she tries to keep her business going, find the necklace and co-ordinate her love life. And then the two investigators discover who has the necklace. Lara realises that all is not as it seems and in order to get to the bottom of the whole business she must force the very reluctant Sadie to tell her something about her life. Which is when the mystery really begins...
I think this is the fourth book I've read by Sophie Kinsella and she's never failed to impress me (although I do seem to prefer her stand-alone books to the Shopaholic series). On the surface this is quite a fluffy, fun story with a lot of laughs. There's one scene where I was literally in stitches at one in the morning and could hardly force myself to stop reading and turn out the light. And, aside from being humorous, there is also a solid mystery element to this which keeps you guessing and is genuinely interesting and even quite rivetting as Sadie's past history is slowly revealed.
But, as with all of Sophie Kinsella's books, there is always an under-lying question she's asking of the reader. How do we treat our older relatives who are unable to look after themselves and have to reside in homes for the elderly? Do we treat them as individuals with something relevant or interesting to say, a history to relate? Do we visit them or do we hide them away, expecting paid health-care workers to look after them and not bother us younger ones with their existance? It's one hell of a question and one all of have to face at one time or another, either as caring - or uncaring - relatives or as the elderly person ourselves.
The author handles this question brilliantly, not bashing us around the head with guilty facts but gently leading us to question, via a very clever plot, how we value the elderly in a 21st. century where youth and high flying careers are worshipped but no one has time to smell the roses... or visit a lonely old lady in a nursing home.
I've loved all the books by Sophie Kinsella's that I've read so far, but this is by far my favourite. I loved the mystery element, the humour, the poignancy, the characters, the romance, the scattiness. It was so readable that I found it hard to stop reading when I had to and when I wasn't reading it was constantly thinking about it. Sophie Kinsella is quite simply one of the best writers of light, modern fiction around today, in my opinion. I can't wait to see what she writes next!