by Cynthia Chow
Details on how to win a copy of Tarnished and Town at the end of this post.
As the owner of the San Francisco vintage clothing store Aunt Cora’s Closet, attending the Cow Palace Gem Faire was akin to being a kid in a candy store for Lily Ivory. Beautiful, antique jewelry and decorative ornaments, all at wholesale prices! Who could ask for more? However, her blooming witch senses go abuzz when she encounters Griselda’s Antique Jewelry and Gem booth, where the gypsy-like Griselda offers an athame ceremonial knife along with her bargain opals and gems. Despite her sense that something is off around Griselda, Lily can’t pass up a good deal and it’s just in the nick of time as a distinctly mystical fire disrupts the exhibit. During the aftermath of the ensuing chaos, she and security discover Griselda’s body pressed to death in the usually fatal method used to force a confession from suspected witches during the Salem witch hunts.
Having been shunned as a child, sent to live with her witch grandmother by her own mother and forced to leave her home in Texas, Lily definitely fears that Griselda’s attack may be only the beginning of another witch hunt. As a result, while Lily cooperates with the mostly witch-friendly SFPD Homicide Inspector, Carlos Romero, she also seeks guidance from her psychic friend, Hans Wilhelm Brach in Germany, in addition to Aiden Rhodes, the sexy local witch godfather with whom Lily is feuding.
Far more disconcerting is the news that her father was seen at the Gem Faire and may be implicated in Griselda’s death. Having abandoned Lily at her birth and again after a devastating confrontation when she tracked him down fifteen years previously at the age of seventeen, Lily has serious trust issues and is even more protective of the friends she has made in her adopted town. Her good friend and employee, Maya, has recently become enamored with fire dancing and its instructor. Guru Gene from Jersey has a suspiciously supernatural hold over his followers. So Lily definitely hands her hands full as she must contend with the murder of a witch, a break-in at her store, a rush order for quincenera dresses, the return of her estranged father, two inept stalkers, a creepy cult lead and a missing Aztec ring, all without the aid of Sailor, her one-time maybe-a-boyfriend psychic boyfriend. What she does have is the assistance of her stubborn and gluttonous familiar Oscar, a goblin/gargoyle who takes the Cowan-friendly form of a Vietnamese potbellied pig.
The fifth in the Witchcraft Mystery series continues to build on creating a very strong mythology around Lily and her continually growing powers as a witch. Blackwell incorporates an impressive amount of fascinating Aztec lore and builds a very believable world where different myths collide and yet still coexist. Lily herself has grown into a very sympathetic character whose background and persecution for being different has left her wary and distrustful, but also still very vulnerable to her need to develop bonds with her family.
Although Aiden and Sailor are unfortunately largely absent this allows for more focus on Lily, as she must rely on her own wits to discover why Griselda was murdered and whether this portends the further hunting of witches. Lily does still find the time to provide the perfect dresses for a fifteen year-old’s extravagant birthday celebration as well as hilariously terrify a pair of thieves with a witchy performance. The social insecurity of an extraordinarily powerful witch is very craftily explored in this enjoyable and exciting paranormal mystery that features plenty of romance, fashion, thrills, and humor.
To enter to win a copy of Tarnished and Torn, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Torn,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 3, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories, including more fashion related mystery reviews & giveaways in this very issue, in our mystery section.