A Spell of Murder

A spell of Murder ISBN: 9781838880958 Bookouture, London copyright and written by Kennedy Kerr.

The story follows the activities of two local but very modern witches as they attempt to solve a murder that appears to involve some manner of witchcraft. Their home belonged to their parents in the small town of  Lost Maiden’s Loch, named for the small lake in Scotland which had gained its name from  a young maiden who mysteriously had drowned in its waters. The sisters’ parents had been quite knowledgeable of the dark arts, even purportedly have taught the subject. The two young presumed witches are thirty-year-old Temerity Love, owner and proprietress of Love’s Curiosities and her 2-year-older sister Tilda, each quite accomplished in different most unusual subjects. Temerity was the proprietress of a small antique shop, Love’s Curiosities, in their home, but more importantly was a world renowned clairvoyant who had the gift of psychometry or psychic provenance that allowed her to gain extensive history of an item merely by touching and/or holding it – a talent of immeasurable importance in the antique and collectors’ world. Tilda was an authority, verifier and dealer in rare books as well as an Herbalist. Thus, their designation. The plot involves a number of prominent characters living in the town as well as the Laird, his home, wife and former wives, his sons, two of his old mansion’s remaining staff members, the town’s police officer, his quite newly arrived replacement along with Temerity and Tilda and their unusual knowledge as they attempt to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of a relatively newly arrived school teacher.

Discussion: As aptly explained by the author, this is a tale about “a little Scottish village alongside one of those strange, sometimes enormous lochs. A gossipy, cozy village where, sometimes, strange things happen and two local witches are on hand to investigate…” This reader found the description basically to be quite accurate and, for the most part, the story enjoyable. The only detracting features were insertion of ‘Americanisms’ in an otherwise Scottish tale and a sense that the charming picture developed in the book’s earlier chapters would have continued unabated if a little more judicious editing had been employed in the last third of the volume.

3* Charming mystery tale with slight caveat.

The Winter Sisters

The Winter Sisters: A Novel ISBN: 9780984974894 QW Publishers, Copyright and written by Tim Westover.

The story opens with a prologue set in 1811 that introduces the three Winter Sisters – Rebecca, the oldest, Sarah and Effie the youngest. They are ‘healers’, taught by their now deceased mother, well known for their abilities by residents of the nearby town of Lawrenceville and the surrounding area of Georgia. Raised in Hope Hollow in which the mother had settled long before the town existed, they had moved to town, largely because of Rebecca’s association with one of the town’s inhabitants and lived there for some time until driven out by a ‘fire breathing’ minister who had incited the townspeople to riot against these ‘devil’s advocates and witches who produced their cures through potions and other demon-directed methods’. In the resulting action, the man with whom Rebecca related was badly burned and even Effie, the youngest who did appear to have some manner of occult power, could or would not save him (causing something of a rift in her relationship with Rebecca). The sick, if still desperate enough, still followed them when they returned to Hope Hollow, but now were threatened on the journey by a rabid panther that roamed the forest. An animal that the minister insisted was the Devil’s own creation serving the desires of these witches. Because of the new difficulty encountered by the sick and infirm residents, the Mayor persuades Dr. Aubrey Waycross, an urban hospital trained physician to move there. The story gradually unfolds as Waycross arrives with his training of the day that still embraced Galen and Hippocrates. This consisted of using lancets, emetics, enemas and blistering agents, with bloodletting when called for, as well as other treatments obvious to the names of the agents employed. Thus, his practice vies with the herbal and holistic approach as developed to that time because he sees their results effective in many instances. So, simultaneously he attempts to combine the two approaches as he also becomes enamored of Rebecca. During the development of the plot, the characters of each of the three sisters proceed along quite different lines that aid in its development and a number of supporting characters including a travelling medicine man, the minister, and several other town characters, also provide different aspects of the story.

Discussion: The author has set forth a fascinating description of medicine as it existed, and was practiced, in rural (often to a degree urban as well) areas and populations of the era. As such, the tale is well worth reading. Unfortunately, a number of hiccups occur in recounting the tale. Most prominent, from this reader’s perspective, is difficulty attempting to define and empathize with the main characters. Waycross’ activities frequently appear quite thoughtless, even at times ridiculous; Rebecca appears to act in accord with her position in that place and time, but still is rather wraith-like in presenting a persona; Effie is even more of a wraith as she wanders about with her apparent occult power, and her ultimate close relationship with Thumb, a typical medicine man, seemingly unpredictable; Thumb, in turn offers his share of question marks; Sarah is a ‘loose cannon’ wandering around; Other, supporting characters also provide interesting, often amusing additions to the story. The ending, at least for this reader, was abrupt, somewhat inexplicable and unfulfilling.

Summary: A look at the practice of medicine in the 1800’s, perhaps particularly of interest at this time because of the surging interest among patients and even physicians in the holistic approach to treatment.

4* Special interest for current holistic medicine interest; hiccups as noted.

The Beckoning of Beguiling Things

The Beckoning of Beguiling Things Sumer McKenzie, Inc. an e-book copyright and written by Calinda B.

In this first book of a new sequence group, The Beckoning Series, Marissa Engles is in Las Vegas for a week-end with a dear friend and her two slightly older married sisters. Her sisters want her to ‘loosen up’ and enjoy a week-end fling while exercising some caution apropos secret instructions from a repressive aunt with whom she lived for some time after her parents met with a fatal airplane crash. Her close friend wants her to forget any restrictions. Marissa is a successful artist recovering from a disastrous break-up with her last boyfriend and really does not want to again be involved. However, without her knowledge, she is designated as part of a group of individuals who ‘keep the balance between good and evil within the world’. Her presence in Las Vegas actually is the result of maneuvering by this group for her to be impregnated with a special element that will ensure that she assumes her proper place within the activities of the group. The story continues as she meets a ‘surfer dude’ who teaches relaxation and also a male dancer at one of the Las Vegas clubs. It escalates with description of gradually increasing titillating activity. The finale provides a basis for the projected following episodes.

This is a fast moving, well written tale with interesting characters and an engaging fantasy plot that gradually increases in sexual involvement. This introductory volume projects interesting elements for sequential material.

5* Should have great appeal for this best-selling author’s readers.

The Chosen Man

The Chosen Man ISBN: 9781942756057 Penmore Press LLC, an adventure/Romance copyright 2015 and written by J. G. Harlond.

Time and Place: The first half of the seventeenth century was a period of intense political and religious intrigue. The Hapsburg Emperor Ferdinand had vowed to impose Catholicism throughout the empire before his death and was harrying the Spanish monarch, Don Felipe, to regain the Netherlands. Cardinal Richelieu of France signed a treaty with the Dutch, and French ships raided the Spanish galleons as they brought supplies to their troops as they attempted to regain the lost terrain. The Vatican aligned with the side espousing Catholicism, of course, and wide-ranging attacks by the Mediterranean corsairs known as Turks in such places as Cornwall estates in England for plunder and slaves was a constant concern throughout Europe.

Plot: John Hawthorne, a somewhat frail English priest is given the assignment by a conniving Cardinal of the Vatican aligned with Spanish Noblemen to make an offer to the “chosen man” to manipulate the tulip market in Holland so it eventually would collapse. The underlying idea was to take advantage of the “Tulip Mania’ affecting the country by undermining the country’s monetary system, thus a need to curtail funds for continuing war with Spain. “In the 1636 tulip bulbs in Holland were weighed on ‘goldsmiths’ weights but many of the bulbs were worth more than their weight in gold. One Dutch merchant paid 6,650 guilders for a dozen bulbs at a time when 300 guilders would have kept an entire family for a whole year.” The priest finds the ‘chosen’ Ludovico da Portovenere, a large, handsome, competent, purported Genoese Merchant who also appeared to have an unexplained working relationship with the Mediterranean corsairs. The story develops following Ludo’s activities but simultaneously rather equally interspersed with those of several others: Marcos Alexendro, son of a Spanish tavern keeper with ideas and hopes of upward mobility beyond his present station in life; Alina, the oldest daughter of a deceased mother and still living Spanish Grandee father impoverished by his constant attempts to continue court life, has dreams of romantic rescue and return to the life she had known; Sir Geoffrey, owner of the large estate, Crimphele in Cornwall England; Thomas, frail son and close friend of John Hawthorne since childhood who inherits the land. Additional interesting characters that contribute variously to the story include: Crook-back Aggie, the estate’s hunchback (?) cook who has occult powers; Meg, a young maid: Molly, another and sometimes caretaker of the young heir-apparent to the estate with her husband; McNab, the estate’s hired controller who had a hidden dark background and numerous nefarious plans; Elsa, a wealthy widow now enamored of the tulip market, as well as Ludo; and even more characters with still lesser influence on the plot, or rather intermingled plots.

Discussion: This is a tale consisting actually of quite complicatedly interwoven plots with a large number of characters. They are wrapped together in a manner that provides details of a most fascinating occurrence in history in just as fascinating and chaotic period of world turmoil. If the prospective reader is interested if fictionalized history with action and romance thrown in, this book is for you.

5* For readers as designated.

The Prince of Manhatten

      The Prince of Manhattan an e-book assumed published, copyright and written by Alexi Iskander.

The reader is introduced to Prince Leofric, the son and heir apparent to the throne of King of Northumbria, one of the seven kingdoms existing in the northern part of Great Britain roughly in the years 600 – 900. Cedric, his father, is holding a victory dinner celebrating a huge victory over the “Howling mad Picts’ as they raided from the north and descended upon the kingdom in the early summer months. Leofric is watching his uncle Aethelred closely because he believes he will attempt to do away with his father Cedric and take over the kingdom. This is exactly what transpires when he manages to kill Cedric, place blame on the son and, with the help of Siana, the most powerful witch of the time, has him transported through time, as well as space. Leofric awakens ultimately in New York City’s Greenwich Village. Concurrently Miranda Hazelgrove, a young NYU student from Albany, has finished work at a restaurant where she works to supplement the financial support she is receiving from her parents. Deciding to take a bus rather than the subway because it is a shorter distance to manipulate her tired body, she is accosted by two killer rapists. Leofric is nearby, hears her screams and rescues her. His attire with sword and all, as well as his manner of action and speech do not cause her any unusual thoughts because there is an event taking place in the city where people are acting out their individual idiosyncrasies of thought. After expressing her thanks she discovers that he has no place to stay for the night so invites him to share her apartment. He does and from here the reader is introduced to a recounting of their activities, both individually and collectively until a finale of sorts is reached.

Discussion: The author has presented a fantasy/romance/space/time travel story that apparently a number of readers have enjoyed. Most regrettably this reader is not one of them. From this perspective the tale provides abundant physical activity but it is set forth either with little understanding of the extent of training an individual such as the prince would have received or to present him as quite incompetent, in which case it is amazing that he would have survived his life in Northumbria. Thus, much of the story seems forced. There also is abundant repetition, missed words/spelling and even usage; e.g. people do not “saddle up” to people they sidle up to them.

3* For romantic YA, Young-at-Heart or those interested, amused by era differences.

Trail of Fear

Trail of Evil. Fearless Publishing, an e-book published first in 2011, copyright and written by Jansen Mancheski.

Following ‘The Chemist’s’ capture, he names an African known only by the single name Kinsella to escape at least the murder charge of beheading the first of his kidnapped women. Cale van Waring, the senior investigating officer believes this to be simply a ploy but does contact his FBI friend who verifies the man’s existence with additional information that he had been deported from Great Britain back to Liberia because of his purported association with human trafficking. Cale, even though his investigative results had been superb and he had received commendations, had been suspended from the police force for ignoring police procedure during the events moving up to the arrest. Thus, in typical Cale fashion, he decides to travel on his own to Liberia to request Kinsella be turned over to him to be brought back to the United States for trial. Through a friend, he has the complete backing of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security and tacitly Interpol because the human trafficking problem is immense. He is put in the hands of Jacek Tumaj, a Czeck freelance mercenary, and his team in Italy. From there the action proceeds to Liberia where Cale’s meeting with the government officials is shunted to meet with Colonel Tazeki “Taz” Mabutu, the head of the Liberian National Police. It seems that Taz also is an extremely highly placed African voodoo priest, a botono or master of all loa, especially the petro loa or dark gods. As such, it is believed Taz can possess another person’s body turning them into a zombie slave to do the botomo’s bidding. Regardless, the colonel is an unusually cruel individual and like many other Liberians, enjoys human meat. It is here that an incredibly horrendous series of activities begin with Jacek and his team becoming totally responsible for Cale’s survival. The action is fast and suspenseful leading to a finale that provides a legitimate introduction to Book III of the series.

Discussion: On the good side, the action is high octane with plenty of suspense. On the bad side, Cale’s mental as well as physical actions are difficult to accept. His expectations of journeying to a totally unstable country and expecting their government to deliver one of their citizens for expedition to the United States because of a mid-western detective’s request is incredibly unrealistic. Similarly, his superior/questionable (?) attitude in general is that exhibited unfortunately by numerous Americans travelling to foreign lands and the source of the term ‘ugly American’ widely heard at one time. And one more inexplicable, but in character, attitude is that toward learning any of the tricks of survival the mercenaries attempted to teach him.

Conclusion: An interesting, but disappointingly flawed follow-up to the first book in the series that reader’s still may enjoy for the high octane action.

3* Enjoyable suspenseful tale; rating reduced for reasons described