Help for the Haunted

By John Searles. (William Morrow, 363 pages, $27.)

Author John Searles wrapped a ghost story inside a mystery, and the result is a worthy thriller. "Help for the Haunted," his third novel, is about the strange and isolated life of the Mason family. The parents are growing famous for their work helping those who believe they are possessed by demonic spirits. Their two young daughters grow up facing taunts from peers about their ghost-busting mom and dad. Their small community in Maryland increasingly shuns them after the spirit-fighters make headlines. The novel's alternating chapters are cleverly split in time to reveal what came before and after a deadly tragedy at the heart of this captivating story.

David Shaffer, reporter


By Ray Walker. (Gotham, 293 pages, $26.)

Ray Walker did what every last one of us dreams of doing: quit his office job to chase a dream. Walker also did what every last "cork dork" dreams of doing: made wine in Burgundy. Still, the true hero of Walker's book is not the author/vintner or the many strangers who helped him along the way. It's his wife, Christian, who provides unflagging, often seemingly inexplicable, support and encouragement as her husband pursues his passion.

Walker is a deft writer; as with the wines of his beloved destination, a light touch makes for a more engaging product. For grape nuts, this extraordinary journey — in less than a decade, Walker went from never having tasted a Burgundy to crafting wines from one of the region's (and world's) foremost vineyards, Le Chambertin — provides riveting reading. But the human side, especially the thoroughly French characters and Walker's saintly spouse, makes this an engaging account for anyone to savor on the patio or by the fireplace — a glass of wine optional, but recommended.

BILL WARD, reporter