Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Trouble with Magic

I love witchy little supernatural mysteries, so I'm excited about the first book in Madelyn Alt's "Bewitching Mystery" series. Maggie O'Neill, suddenly dismissed from her boring collections job for being tardy one too many times, finds herself quickly employed by the owner of Enchantments, an upscale local antiques store. Felicity Dow, the store's classy owner, informs an incredulous Maggie right up front that she is a practicing witch. The idea makes Maggie a little nervous, but Felicity seems wonderful & Maggie needs a job. Maggie's reservations surface again on her first day of work, however, when Felicity's estranged sister is found dead and Felicity is questioned as a suspect in the murder. It doesn't take Maggie long to become convinced of Felicity's innocence, however, and Maggie's determined to do what she must to clear her new friend's name.
Harder to accept is Felicity's belief in the supernatural, and the mounting evidence that Maggie might have some uncanny abilities herself. Convinced Maggie is an empath, someone who senses the emotions and motivations of others, Felicity invites Maggie to attend a meeting of N.I.G.H.T.S., a local ghost-hunting group. Maggie's not sure about being an empath - she's thought for years she just has an overactive imagination - but she has to admit she's intrigued by Felicity's friends and what she's learning about Wicca. But before she can further explore her own interests, Maggie must help clear Felicity's name and discover the real murderer.
I really enjoyed this book, although, upon examining it objectively, it falls a bit short in several categories. As a mystery, it was fairly predictable - I was a bit annoyed with Maggie for not figuring things out sooner, since she seems like a pretty intelligent woman. Because Maggie has just met Felicity & just been introduced to the idea of witchcraft as a religion, the book does not incorporate a lot of information about Wicca or Wiccan beliefs (although what it does say seems to be accurate). I assume that will come in later books, as Maggie learns more herself. As for the supernatural aspect, it, too, is only touched on, with hints of more to come.
I would have loved more rituals, more spirituality, more ghosties & ghoulies - but I feel like I've just had a glimpse of what's to come in Maggie's future, and I can't wait to see the rest of the picture. I'll definitely be reading more about her.
As for teens, there may be some interest from those who are intrigued by Wicca or the supernatural, but this is really a book aimed at an older audience - not because of content (it's pretty much PG), but just because the characters are older & Maggie's problems are those of a twenty-something approaching thirty with nothing much to show for it. Teens who are looking for Wiccan fiction would do better to check out Isobel Bird's Circle of Three series or Laurie Faria Stolarz's Blue is for Nightmares books. These are fun, accurate portrayals of Wiccan/pagan practices with teen protagonists.
As for the adults who are looking for more of these type of books, I intend to check out some of author Madelyn Alt's "friends" - The Witchy Chicks Blog is a group blog kept by Alt & several other authors of paranormal fiction - much of which (not surprisingly) has witchy overtones. I'll let you know what I think after I read some of her pals!

Alt, Madelyn. The Trouble With Magic. New York: Berkley Prime Crime, 2006. ISBN 0425207463. 261 pages.
Bird, Isobel. So Mote It Be (Circle of Three #1). New York: Avon, 2001. ISBN: 0064472914. 240 pages. $4.99.
Stolarz, Laurie Faria. Blue is for Nightmares. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 2003. ISBN: 0738703915. 283 pages. $8.95.

What I'm Reading: The Tale of Holly How by Susan Wittig Albert (#2 in the Beatrix Potter Cottage Tales series)
On My Bookshelf: The Mysteries by Lisa Tuttle, Thyme of Death by Susan Witting Albert


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