We always welcome ghosts to Sorchia’s Universe! Randy Overbeck’s latest release, Scarlet at Crystal River, combines hauntings with romance and a murder. Who can resist that?
A New Ghost Story
by Randy Overbeck
Crafting a new ghost story is no simple feat for me.
When I envisioned the Haunted Shores Mysteries, I set out to create something different. I wasn’t interested in imitating the terrifying, blood-curdling ghost tales of authors like Stephen King and Dean Koontz. At the same time, I didn’t want to go the route of the whimsical, all-too- helpful ghost, the kind popular with a number of cozy mysteries. Instead, I wanted to create ghost stories more closely rooted to reality.
Thanks to the work of scores of ghost hunting groups across the country, we now have considerable evidence of ghostly encounters—digital photos, audio and video recordings, recordings of thermal imaging and temperature fluctuations, EMF recordings as well as a few authentic artifacts—and these are forming a more complete picture of how the spirit world interacts with the living.
For my series, I wanted to craft my fictional ghosts based largely on this documented evidence…with a bit of literary license, of course. I am writing fiction here.
At the same time, I realized my fictional ghosts had to carry a certain amount of “who-hoo” to entice the reader and keep the paranormal fan engaged. Too large a dose of reality might start the reader yawning. Straying too far afield from these details might stretch the credibility of my tales. I realized I’m treading a thin line here and the composition of my ghosts is critical to making the narratives of my series work.
For the first entry, BLOOD ON THE CHESAPEAKE (2019), the ghost of a large black teen intimidates my hero, teacher and coach, Darrell Henshaw, when he comes face to face with the specter in his office.
The youth, a victim of a racially-motivated killing decades earlier, stalks Darrell to get him to uncover the truth about the young man’s murder. Both Darrell and reader must have been suitably scared as BLOOD became a #1 Amazon Best-Seller last month. In the second book, CRIMSON AT CAPE MAY (2020), Darrell encounters the ghost of a bride killed on her wedding night, the bloody evidence of her gruesome murder spilling down the front of her white wedding dress. Her appearance is enough to freak Darrell, with more than sufficient “woo-hoo” and a heavy dose of the reality of the murder as well.
For the third installment, SCARLET AT CRYSTAL RIVER (2021) I wanted to pursue a slightly different path.
First of all, the story carries a greater romantic theme. Darrell and his new wife, Erin are on their honeymoon, traveling to the sunny Gulf coast of Florida. Second, SCARLET is a Christmas ghost story/mystery. So I had to balance the traditional elements of my series—cold case murder mystery, eerie ghost tale in a beautiful resort location—along with touches of a Christmas story. The ghosts for this tale had to fit into this ambiance.
As I was pondering this as part of my plot planning, I happen to be reviewing some family pictures during the dark days of the pandemic. I came across a photo of my grandkids laughing and playing on a playground, years earlier.
The inspiration for the story sprung from that picture. What if Darrell, a man dedicated to helping children, encountered the ghosts of two murdered children during the Christmas holidays? Talk about needy kids. The pieces for the narrative fell into place. This new ghost story would feature the ghosts of two immigrant children, two kids desperate for Darrell’s help…and like that, the narrative picture of the ghosts of SCARLET coalesced. Kind of like real ghosts.
Now, I’m waiting to see if my readers like my newest representatives from the spirit world. Fingers crossed. Early responses are good.
A rollercoaster of a mystery, hurtling up and down hills and sharp corners until the very end, when the reader is left slightly breathless, waiting for their hearts to beat back to a normal rhythm. ★★★★★
Darrell and Erin thought they were heading to Florida for a carefree honeymoon, but the ghosts of two immigrants children haunt them, pleading for help.
All Darrell Henshaw wanted was to enjoy his honeymoon with his beautiful wife, Erin, in the charming town of Crystal River on the sunny Gulf Coast of Florida. Only a pair of ghosts decide to intrude on their celebration. And not just any ghosts, the spirits of two young Latino children. Unwilling at first to derail the honeymoon for yet another ghost hunt, Darrell finally concedes when a painting of the kids comes alive, weeping and pleading for his help.
When he and Erin track down the artist, they discover the children’s family were migrant workers the next county over. But when they travel there, their questions about the kids gets their car shot up and Erin hospitalized. Torn between fear and rage, Darrell must decide how far he will go to get justice for two young children he never even knew.
Scarlet at Crystal River is an eerie paranormal mystery I couldn’t stop reading. Randy Overbeck is a masterful writer of the paranormal, drawing the reader in before instilling shivers down the spine. 5+ stars.
N.N. Light Book Heaven
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Scarlet at Crystal River is a suspenseful paranormal novel with compelling characters and an enigmatic mystery that drives the story to a riveting conclusion. Overbeck is a master at building tension–-this is easily a one-sitting read.” ★★★★★
Dr. Randy Overbeck is an award-winning educator, author and speaker. As an educator, he served children for four decades in a range of roles captured in his novels, from teacher and coach to principal and superintendent.
His thriller, Leave No Child Behind (2012) and his recent mysteries, the Amazon No. 1 Best Seller, Blood on the Chesapeake, Crimson at Cape May and Scarlet at Crystal River have earned five star reviews and garnered national awards including “Thriller of the Year–ReadersFavorite.com, “Gold Award”—Literary Titan, “Mystery of the Year”—ReadersView.com and “Crowned Heart of Excellence”—InD’Tale Magazine.
As a member of the Mystery Writers of America, Dr. Overbeck is an active member of the literary community, contributing to a writers’ critique group, serving as a mentor to emerging writers and participating in writing conferences such as Sleuthfest, Killer Nashville and the Midwest Writers Workshop. When he’s not writing or researching his next exciting novel or sharing his presentation, “Things Still Go Bump in the Night,” he’s spending time with his incredible family of wife, three children (and their spouses) and seven wonderful grandchildren.
And on TikTok at @authorrandyo