Think that old Television series The Ghost and Mrs Muir throw in contemporary Sydney and a restaurant as setting, with ghost – Frankie, and you have J.D. Barrett’s The Secret Recipe for Second Chances. This is a story about a young woman, Lucy who leaves her philandering ‘superstar’ chief husband to open her own restaurant and in the process finds a red recipe book and meets the resident ghost-chief. The narrative is fast and there is a lot going on and initially I struggled to suspend belief to really enjoy the story. This isn’t Swayze and Moore in the wonderful Ghost where the set-up for their other-worldly romance was perfect. There certainly isn’t the same connection, but the premise is very similar and enjoyable just the same.

recLucy’s new start-up is an old forgotten restaurant in Woolloomooloo that was once the city hot spot. Enter a plethora of characters. Firstly the restaurant Fortune is haunted by the resident ghost, Frankie, previous owner and on a mission to find out who killed him – food critic, property developer, financial backers, a now famous artist. Then there is Frankie’s handsome son. A number of friends and acquaintances, some of whom appear out of Frankie’s past to lend a hand, as well as Lucy’s psychic mother, helpful best friend and a down-at heel homeless man, Bill, who plays a bigger part than expected, or maybe it was expected. The reader will have to decide.

While the story is filled with quirky and mostly lovable characters and is different enough to get readers talking I did think the story was a bit long-winded at times and then towards the end, rushed in the winding up. That rather spoilt it for me. However the author is a talented scriptwriter and producer and the narrative style of this her debut novel is very visual and engaging. All the characters are looking for a second chance and J.D. Barret makes sure everyone gets one. I can see this on television screen as I’m sure this novelist-producer-scriptwriter can. It has all the elements for quirky TV viewing.