Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Charmed Death

A Charmed Death
Author: Madelyn Alt
Berkley, 2006
289 pages

We last met Stony Mill, Indiana native Maggie O'Neill in The Trouble With Magic. At that time, she'd just started working in the Enchantments gift shop with Felicity, an Englishwoman who happens to be a witch. When Felicity's sister was murdered, everyone thought Felicity must have been involved, but Maggie proved her innocence and helped catch the real killer. A Charmed Death takes place two months later, in early December. Felicity's away on sabbatical and Maggie's running the store, along with part-time Evie, who attends the local high school and secretly hangs out with the N.I.G.H.T.S. (Northeast Indiana Ghost Hunting and Tracking Society).

When an in-store altercation between Goth Girl Tara and Mean Girl Amanda is followed shortly by Amanda's murder, Maggie once again finds herself drawn into a mystery. Clues lead her to an underground sex ring - could Amanda, a daughter of privilege who seemed to have everything, have possibly been involved in something so dangerous and controversial? The more Maggie learns, the more questions she has - and there are lots of red herrings. I actually guessed the murderer early on, but I was thinking: "Nah, can't be this person" and I went down the wrong trail!

But the murder isn't the only story in A Charmed Death. Tara the Goth Girl is a new character, and she seems to have a gift. Unfortunately, the intense, angry young woman hasn't learned all the rules - or the necessity of respecting them. Her attraction to dark energies is of great concern to Maggie. In the meantime, Maggie's still trying to come to grips with her own gifts, and she's learning all sorts of new things from some of the N.I.G.H.T.S. members. When Felicity returns in the second half of the book, she continues her mentorship of Maggie - and that's another story!

You've heard this from me before, but the growth of the characters and the relationships between the characters is critical to the success of the "cozy mystery." Certainly the relationship between Maggie and Felicity is of great importance, but so are Maggie's relationships with her Mom, her sister, and her best friend. Then there are the Dudes. In The Trouble With Magic, Maggie was sort of developing a relationship with Tom the police officer, but it seems to have fizzled in A Charmed Death. Or has it? In the meantime, this second book has Maggie getting to know Marcus, the mysterious warlock who Maggie assumed was Felicity's boyfriend in the first book. Turns out that Marcus and Tara the Goth Girl are cousins, which adds an extra element and additional potential for future books.

This series is a guilty pleasure to me, sort of like the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. I like it because it's set in Indiana, and also because I can read an entire book in just a few hours. It's fun, and doesn't give me a headache. :-)

It occurred to me as I was writing this review that I haven't read a book with an international focus since early March. Not sure what I'll read next, but it will be set outside the USA. I'm heading to my home library just as soon as I press "Publish Post" to select the next book. Cheers!