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Spirit Shapes

Ghost hunters stumble upon a murdered teen in a haunted house.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree's investigation pulls her into a whirlwind of restless spirits, good and evil, intertwined with the past and the present, and demons and angels at war.

Book 12 of the Tempe Crabtree Mystery series

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Marilyn Meredith

Marilyn Meredith is the author of over thirty books in several genres, but mainly mystery. She embraced electronic publishing before anyone knew much about it. She taught writing for Writer's Digest School for ten years and served as an instructor at the Maui Writers Retreat, has been a judge for several writing contest, was a founding member of the San Joaquin chapter of Sisters in Crime, serves on the board of directors of the Public Safety Writers Association, is also a member of EPIC and Mystery Writers of America.

Marilyn lives in the foothills of the Southern Sierra in California in a place much like Bear Creek where her heroine Tempe Crabtree serves as a resident deputy. She is married to the "cute sailor" she met on a blind date many years ago and is grateful for all the support he gives her and her writing career every day. She is proud of the fact that she and her husband raised five children and now are grandparents to eighteen and great-grands to thirteen.

"What happens in my books is the only place in my life where I have any control," Marilyn says, smiling.


In Spirit Shapes, Deputy Tempe tries to solve three crimes that have occurred in the eerie Wilkinson House over the last eighty years. As Tempe is drawn into a battle of good evil, she is confronted with a problem faced by many with cross-cultural backgrounds. What is the best way to recognize the truth? Is it her Indian traditions as represented by Nick Two Johns or Christianity as represented by her husband Hutch or some combination of the two?

Janet Greger

3.5 Stars

I like Tempe and she is a well-defined character whom I believe in. There are also a number of other interesting characters, such as Nora Jennings, the town’s oldest resident, Nick Two John, the chef and owner of Bear Creek Inn, and Doretha, a Native American shaman. The atmosphere in the haunted house was very well portrayed and I was really on edge whenever Tempe was there. Obviously the house contains more mysteries than just the one Tempe is supposed to solve.

Overall, Marilyn Meredith gives appropriate clues and plays fair with her readers, allowing the suspense to build... Also, the mystery is much more about figuring out how to set the spirits free than it is about solving the murder.

This is a lovely cozy mystery which fans of that genre will certainly enjoy. It is the twelfth in a series, but I never would have known that if I hadn’t seen it in the title. It works just fine as a stand alone, and I had no difficulties following the plot. If you are looking for a mystery involving spirits, this might just fit the bill.

CompletedReviews -- Long and Short Reviews

I opened Spirit Shapes with the expectation of reading a couple of chapters while I ate breakfast and finishing it tonight at bedtime. It is noon and I just turned the last page. Marilyn Meredith has a way of blending the past and present, along with the physical and spiritual worlds, so that Spirit Shapes is half police procedural and half spooky ghost story. This is a modern murder mystery woven in with older murders all linked together by one house with a very haunted history. Its a great read and perfect timing to put you in the right frame of mind for Halloween. Spirit Shapes has enough story twists to be exciting to a wide age range of readers with no bad language. Definite two thumbs up on this one. –Linda Card

This is an absorbing story, with some shocking scenes and a strong religious and spiritual tone. The author sets it up in her epigraph, with a quote from Black Elk on "the shapes of things in the spirit" and a quote from the prophet Elisha in 2 Kings 6:16 of the Bible counseling "Don't be afraid."

Tempe Crabtree, resident deputy of Bear Creek in the Southern Sierra foothills, has a foot in two worlds. She values the emotional support of her husband Hutch, the local pastor. Her Indian heritage responds to the native spiritualism of Nick Two John. The two men have occasionally vied for Tempe's attention but when push comes to shove they work together.

Opening lines:
"The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson house, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she'd guided these enthusiasts had been a bust."

This group finds the body of a teenaged boy upstairs. Tempe is called to the scene and when she steps inside she's assaulted by a horde of spirit visions. They may be a mix of ghosts with unfinished business or a residual haunting (an echo of something that happened in the past) and possibly malevolent ghosts or demons that were never human. Tempe manages to collect statements from the ghost hunters while waiting for Detectives Morrison and Richards.

While the detectives are upstairs Tempe inspects the kitchen and gets a flash vision of a young girl cowering in a corner. Tempe tells Hutch the house "has the worst case of unhappy spirits I've ever been unfortunate enough to run across.

Pat Browning

Marilyn Meredith weaves a chilling tale in the most recent installment of her Tempe Crabtree Mystery Series, Spirit Shapes. The story revolves around the murder of a high school student, his body found in an abandoned house known locally for being haunted. In fact, the victim, with two puncture wounds on his neck, is discovered by a group of ghost hunters on a haunted house tour.

If that isn't enough to give a case of the shivers, Deputy Tempe Crabtree has to deal with ghosts, spirits, and possibly demons. Most people might not know the difference, but the Bear Creek deputy is also Native American, and while only a quarter Yanduchi, she has a deep connection to the spiritual, including the restless dead.

With foggy nights, wandering spirits, and evidence that someone in Bear Creek may be worshiping the devil, Tempe has a lot to sort through to get to the bottom of this whodunnit. The book is a murder mystery on its face, but it's also so much more, as Tempe and her pastor husband, Hutch, must face some personal demons of their own before the mystery is solved.

As usual, Marilyn Meredith's characters are well-drawn and believable and her story captivating and perfectly paced. Spirit Shapes is a spine-tingling yet spiritual novel that I highly recommend, perfect to get you in the mood for Halloween, although you might want to keep the lights on when you read it

Holli Castillo

Wow! This may be the best Tempe Crabtree mystery yet!

Lorna Collins brings a group of ghost hunters into the abandoned Wilkinson House and stumbles upon the body of a murdered teen. The body is finally identified as Tucker Philips, a boy whose family recently moved to the area and who was estranged from his best friend, Roland Garcia.

Detective Morrison asks Tempe to investigate Tucker's death, but she is soon caught up in the history of the Wilkinson House, and what role, if any, that may have played in the boy's death. Tempe's mystical connection to the spirit world has always concerned her husband, Pastor Hutch; and now, more than ever before, he finds himself concerned for Tempe's soul.

The Native American elements of this story combined with the restless spirits of the Wilkinson house, and the blending of past and present, make Spirit Shapes an engaging read. While in many ways this is a typical Tempe Crabtree novel, Meredith manages to keep this book fresh and exciting because this story is told in a slightly different way. Usually Tempe is called in to investigate and her focus is on finding the murderer. In Spirit Shapes, the focus is also on the history of the Wilkinson House, so while Tempe is actively talking to Tucker's friends and family, she's also trying to get to the bottom of what might have occurred at the house and whether or not that played a role in Tucker's death. Tempe meets a local historian and she talks to Nick Two John (still one of my favorites) about the house, as she's also spending time at the high school to see how Tucker was getting along before his untimely death.

While the clues led me to believe what was at play here, the book has a phenomenal ending I didn't see coming. –Cheryl Malandrinos

Let me begin by saying, the author, Marilyn Meredith, gave me a copy of Spirit Shapes. The only caveat, write a review whether you like it or not. Well, that’s easy. I liked it.

Tempe Crabtree is believable as a woman, a wife, and a law enforcement officer. I’ve not read any of the previous twelve Tempe Crabtree mysteries. That was not a problem. Meredith’s style made for an easy introduction to Tempe and her husband, Hutch. It’s as though I know both of them and would recognize them anywhere.

Hutch is a simple man with complex issues. A man of the cloth, he must face Tempe’s Native American spiritualism as well as his petty jealousy of her friend Nick Two Johns. A man with flaws, his humanity triumphs.

With Tempe’s beliefs and his faith, they face down the demons of the Wilkinson House, solving several murders along the way.

Spirit Shapes is a good read

George Cramer

As it deals with ghosts, spirits and demons, this is an excellent read for October. When a group of ghost hunters go into a haunted house, the body of a murdered teen is found. Tempe Crabtree is called in to investigate and the fun begins. Between the house's history, murder's both old and new, Native American and Christian rites, you have a book that is unputdownable. I know because I stayed up past midnight reading it, couldn`t believe the ending, so I reread it, staying up till midnight again the next night.

Pat Jones

I've been following this series since I found out about it (Dispel the Mist), and from the beginning I was hooked on Tempe. And in Spirit Shapes, Tempe and Hutch take the next logical step in their philosophical/religious journey. I liked that, made them even more real--things change, evolve, and I like in series I read when the characters change too. And there were several scenes where I was really scared (admittedly I scare easily), but Marilyn Meredith does an excellent job of setting the scene, then slowly taking you there, then getting you at a place where you don't want to turn around! Took me several days to read because I HAD to do some other things. Otherwise wouldn't have put this book down. Was sorry when it was over, and as usual, left me waiting for the next. This is a series I will continue to follow with anticipation!

M. Gornell

Ghost hunting tourists stumble on a dead body in a house reputed to be haunted. Deputy Tempe Crabtree, first on the scene, is sensitive to spirits and finds herself bombarded with them as soon as she enters the house. Spirits don’t kill people the way this young man was murdered, though, and the detective in charge assigns Tempe to find out who the very human murderer is.

Tempe’s attention is split between solving this case and resurrecting two cold cases in order to release the spirits she has encountered so they can pass on. Her superior detective, not understanding the plight of the trapped spirits, refuses to help with the cold cases since all those involved are long dead. Tempe forges ahead on both fronts, helped by her husband, Hutch, a local pastor. Hutch reluctantly accepts that Tempe can communicate with the spirit world, but he worries and fears for her physical and spiritual safety when she does so. They both know that, along with the spirits who need closure to pass on, there are demons who threaten both the living and the dead.

Once the murder victim is identified, Tempe is stonewalled by both staff and students at the high school he attended. Not only were the students he had been running around with lying to her, they were openly taunting her. And a young woman claiming to know something clammed up every time Tempe was close to finding out what it was.

While trying to figure that out, Tempe is also drawn to several small graves in back of the haunted house, the vision of a young girl in a corner of the house, and stories about the murder of a woman in the house many years ago. On top of it all, rumors of satanic activity seem to be increasing.

The author has an understanding of the Native American culture, the festering wounds, and the still-active discrimination. The book is matter-of-fact about these issues, acknowledging them but not allowing them to take over the story. She is remarkably even-handed in dealing with the spirit world issues from both the Native American and the Christian perspectives.

The ending was satisfyingly bone-chilling even for me, a person who doesn't usually read paranormal stories.

Patricia K. Batta -- bookbrowsing

Chapter One

The icy atmosphere settled over Lorna Collins like a shroud, the spirits already making themselves known even before she stepped inside. She shivered but smiled. The haunts in this place, the Wilkinson House, should please her group of ghost hunters. The last two places she’d guided these enthusiasts had been a bust.
The evening began perfectly. Everyone arrived a few minutes before nine. Low clouds settled over the mountains. Looming up from atop a hillock, the two-story structure peered at them through darkened windows. The only light came from flashlight beams as the ghost hunters approached and climbed the rustic steps created from railroad ties.

Lorna gathered the group on the porch to give her instructions. Each person who came on this ghost hunt had been required to read and sign an agreement. The first rule was to keep an open mind. Participants could bring cameras and audio or visual taping devices. Phones could be on, since many used the cameras in their cells, as long as the ring tones were silenced. There were other rules, such as carrying proper identification in case someone noticed the lights in what was known to be an unoccupied structure and sent law enforcement to investigate. Since all other houses were located at least a half mile away, Lorna wasn’t worried about that kind of interruption.

“The quieter we can be as we move around, the more likely we are to hear or be able to tape any strange noises or voices. You can take as many photos as you like. There are two types of spirits we may encounter. One, someone who was alive at one time and has remained on this earthly plane for some reason. The ghost might not realize he or she is dead. Or perhaps it may have some unfinished business. These spirits could be good or bad, depending on what kind of person they were when they were alive.”

A slight murmur rose from the group.

“Don’t worry. They aren’t dangerous. You might also witness what is called a residual haunting. This is an echo of something that happened at another time.” Lorna paused. “I am obligated to tell you that though I’ve yet to encounter this kind of spirit, there are those that were never human. They are malevolent and some might call them demons.”

Again the group whispered among themselves.

“Because of that unlikely possibility, we’ll take a few seconds to put ourselves in the right frame of mind. If you are a religious person, say a prayer of protection.” Lorna bowed her head and counted to ten. “Okay. Here we go. Explore to your heart’s content.”

Oscar Lopez and Andrea Cruz, in their twenties, both made the sign of the cross. Though they claimed not to know each other before the first get-together, they shared an interest in writing. Oscar said he was a novelist and Andrea a reporter for the local newspaper. An obvious spark ignited between the two.

Keith Sanders and Rachel Bayliss stood together. In fact, Lorna suspected the teachers might be romantically involved, though they did their best to hide it.

The only one by himself, sixty-something Maurice Fraleigh, seemed the most unlikely to have an interest in ghostly sightings, but he’d turned up for the last three tours Lorna advertised in the local paper. Like the others, he didn’t seem to mind handing over the fifty-dollar charge for each event. Wearing worn overalls, a plaid shirt and a straw hat, Fraleigh looked more like a farmer than the local historian he was known to be.
Though Lorna had toured the site several days ago with Babs Allen, the realty agent, this was her first venture in the dark.

The Wilkinson House had been designated as haunted for a long time. After Lorna had told Ms. Allen about her reason for wanting to visit the structure, the woman opened up.

“We’ve several vacant houses around Bear Creek with reputations of being haunted. I agree the Wilkinson House is the most likely to suit your purpose.”

“Why do you say that?” Lorna had asked.

“It was built in the early 1900s, and it has been unoccupied for long periods of time. When someone does purchase or rent the place, they never stay long.”

“Do you know the reason?”

Though it was obvious the young woman was reluctant to reveal anything that might squelch a sale, she sighed and finally relented. “I don’t know much about the earliest years, obviously I wasn’t around then.” She smiled. “What I do know is a few residents blamed their quick departures on the fact that they had to share their abode with ghostly beings. Enough proclaimed that same reason for the word to spread. After all, what is more fun to talk about than a haunted house?” She dropped her shoulders. “I doubt I’ll ever be able to unload this place unless,” she gazed hopefully at Lorna, “you plan to do something to get rid of all the ghosts.”

Lorna told her, “I’m sorry, that isn’t what I do.” All she intended while on the tour was to see or feel anything that would validate the theory that ghosts inhabited the Wilkinson House.

After unlocking the massive front door, Lorna pushed it open. The hinges creaked eerily as if pre-planned. She guided the group into what she knew from her earlier daytime visit was the living room.

Lorna entered first. The temperature dropped even more, causing her to shiver. She inhaled deeply knowing sometimes you could get a sense of history of the house from the lingering scents. Cooking smells always remained in the walls. Underneath the faint scents of apple pies, cabbage, garlic and onions, she smelled something she couldn’t quite identify. A strange mustiness. “Come on in.”

Lorna held the door open as the five guests entered. “Step carefully. Keep your flashlights on. The real estate agent assured me there are no hazards, but you never know in a house like this that has been empty for a long period.”

The moving beams from the many flashlights cast eerie shadows and distorted faces as everyone followed Lorna.

Oscar clasped Andrea’s hand and the young couple started toward the staircase.
The others headed off in different directions. Light streaked through the darkness, catching a silvery spider web, briefly illuminating the moving ghost hunters.

Lorna felt an incredible yearning, a palpable sadness. She sensed dreadful events had happened in this house
In minutes, a shrill scream came from upstairs, followed by Oscar Lopez shouting, “Ms. Collins. You better come see. We’ve found something horrible.”