Rating: 4.25 stars
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It’s been a year and a half since Sebastian Snow and Calvin Winter got married. As promised, Sebastian has been staying away from sleuthing and living a quiet life. After Sebastian almost lost Calvin during the Bones case, he is determined to lay low and stay out of trouble. But to Sebastian’s surprise, Calvin’s boss seeks him out for help with identifying an antique found at the scene of a recent murder. Not only that, but the police want Sebastian to consult on the case officially.
Calvin is not happy to have Sebastian involved with his case, as he can’t help but worry it will put Sebastian at risk once again. Yet Sebastian knows that he has the skills and experience to help, and he doesn’t want to be coddled or sheltered. He identifies the antique as a rare spiritoscope, a device designed to prove the legitimacy of Victorian Spiritualists. With the victim a medium who claims to speak to the spirits, the killer seems to be sending a message by leaving the spiritoscope behind.
As more bodies pile up, the situation becomes increasingly dire. Yet the case just seems to get more confusing, rather than less. None of the clues seem to connect and Sebastian can’t help but want to do all he can to help Calvin and the police. But as they get closer to the killer, the killer gets more determined to stop anyone in their tracks — including Sebastian.
The Mystery of the Spirits is the surprise fifth book in C.S. Poe’s Snow and Winter series. The fourth book, The Mystery of the Bones, was announced as the last one (though we did get a book of short stories earlier this year). So it was an exciting treat to find out that Poe was giving us one more mystery for Sebastian and Calvin.
The mystery here is an interesting one, focusing on the time of the Spiritualist movement and a pair of sisters who were at its start. Poe is amazing at research and historical detail and I feel like I always learn something interesting (and crazy) when I read her books. I love the way the mysteries always combine the antiquities with the modern day. The investigation takes some interesting twists and I found it very engaging.
As I said, this story takes place about a year and a half after the guys got married at the end of the fourth book, and I think this time break works really well. The first stories are more clustered together and span a relatively short time period, so this jump in time really highlights how much Sebastian and Calvin have grown individually and in their relationship. In the early books, Sebastian was all jumping into trouble, feeling the need to rush headlong into investigating despite that the dangers. Comparing this book to the first, you can see how much Sebastian has matured and how much more he thinks things through. Of course, he still gets sucked into the case (and occasionally still makes some bad choices), but it really highlights his growth.
I also loved reconnecting with Sebastian and Calvin here. I have always really enjoyed them as a couple, but here they just seem on a different level. This story is warm and romantic and sexy and you can just feel how content the two men are with each other. Again, I think the jump in time really allows a chance to see how much these guys have grown to know one another, to understand what the other needs, and to be able to be there for each other. Even when they have some tense moments, they understand each other enough to work through it and recognize the other’s perspective.
So I am so glad that Poe decided to give us another story for Sebastian and Calvin. Their relationship just made me so happy here, and I think this was actually my favorite book of the series.
Not to compare C.S. Poe to Josh Lanyon–I like them both–but it is refreshing to read an m/m mystery series where the two protagonists actually like and respect each other, and treat each other accordingly. Lanyon’s “romances” often consist of two guys sniping at each other for several books and occasionally having hate sex, and we’re supposed to swoon. Sebastian and Calvin are in a healthier relationship than any of Lanyon’s. Even when they disagree, they talk things out like real people would (or should, anyway).
Yes I really like the way we see them work through issues. They do fight (particularly when Calvin is scared for Seb) but they talk through their problems. There is a really nice sense here of two people who know each other well and care about one another.