Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Book Review - Madelyn Alt's A Charmed Death

A Charmed Death: A Bewitching Mystery Book 2 by Madelyn Alt
Published by: Berkley Prime Crime
Publication Date: December 5th 2006
Format: Paperback, 289 Pages
Challenge: Mystery and Suspense 2011
Rating: ★★★★
To Buy
Maggie is coming to terms with finding out that her small Indiana town has witches and that she's one of them. Before the events of the past few months she has always lived in an insular Midwestern mindset, wherein she's the odd duck out. But meeting Liss, the resident witch, and being brought into her coven and her career, as a worker bee in Liss's store, Enchantments, has changed everything for Maggie. She's having a hard time coming to terms with this new world, but that's not to say it isn't fun while also being scary.

While working the Christmas rush one Saturday, teen queen Amanda enters the shop to buy a Christmas present for her mother to "get her out of the dog house." After dropping a cool $500 in cash, with much to spare, and having an altercation with local goth girl Tara, she walks out of the store and disappears that night, to be found dead near an old railway trestle a few days later. The town goes into morning with churches holding vigils and everyone wondering about the killer in their midst. Maggie, being a bit nosey, and also a bit sweet on the local cop Tom Fielding, she thinks that it's her duty to do what she can "magically" to help speed the investigation along. But it's less magic and more being in the right place at the right time and finding secrets that Amanda had squirreled away. The deeper Maggie investigates, the more secrets she starts to keep, the closer she gets to the killer... the closer she gets to death.

I originally picked up this series because it looked like a fun little bit of fluff. And that's what it is, fun fluff. What really captured me in this installment was the overtones of Twin Peaks brought from the West Coast and placed in Indiana. Because really, that tragedy could be any small town anywhere, and this goes to show that. When Madelyn Alt started describing the location of Amanda's body, I instantly saw Ronette Pulaski walking along those tracks having escaped the killer with the strains of music in the air.

This feeling carries nicely through the book, making it feel like a slightly modern version of Twin Peaks. What could Laura Palmer get up to with a digital camera? Moving beyond the world of Agent Cooper, there where times when I felt there was a very overly religiosity about the book. Being a Midwestern small town, I guess I can forgive a bit of it, but after awhile it grates on you when Maggie is for the 50th time wondering how this new world she's been exposed to fits into the typical Christian mentality. She has to move beyond doubt and just realize that she belongs in this new world she's discovered, why else would she have these gifts? Also, just a weird aside, but, why would a Ouija board freak her out and then the divining method that Liss shows her, which is just a classier version of a Ouija board be A OK!?! Ah well, people do have flaws, and I guess these are Maggie's. At least the ending threw a slight curve ball so that the perp I had fingered was only a slight red herring. I will definitely be picking up the next installment.


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