Gilda Joyce is still grieving over the death of her father a few years before, is convinced that not only is she psychic, but that she will make contact with the dead very shortly. On the last day of eighth grade, she lies to the class about her summer plans, and then, since she has recently vowed not to lie anymore, makes it her mission to actually fulfill those plans, namely going to California. Luckily she has relatives there. Not so luckily they are very distant relatives, and include a sullen teenage girl named Juliet. Once Gilda has managed to insinuate herself into the household, she discovers that Juliet is convinced the house is haunted by an aunt who committed suicide years earlier. Although somewhat skeptical of the highly imaginative Gilda’s use of seances and the occult, the girls set out to solve the mystery of why Juliet’s aunt killed herself, and why her father refuses to let anyone go into the tower room.
Part ghost story, but mostly mystery, Gilda Joyce, Psychic Investigator is the first in a series of books. Gilda may chronologically be ready for high school, but many of her actions and assumptions are those of someone younger, as commented on by several other characters. Sometimes, as in Gilda’s frequent flights of fancy and active imagination, this is a reflection of her creativity and non-conformity. At other times it is simply immaturity. That does not make Gilda any less likable a character, however. Many young high schoolers and middle schoolers will identify with Gilda’s refusal to try to fit in by acting much older than she is.