Publisher: Midnight Ink
Source: the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Release Date: June 8, 2016
Challenges: NetGalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Buying Links: Amazon* | Book Depository* | OmniLit* | Barnes & Noble
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Blurb from goodreads:
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. Is the young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods—he was a trickster and a liar as well.
I like when cozy mysteries have unusual settings or unusual careers for the lead character and "The Madness of Mercury" certainly fit that bill. Set in San Francisco, a large city instead of a small town, and with a heroine who is a professional astrologer, the story was off to a strong start with just those two elements.
di Marco gives us a strong sense of place, taking us beyond the tourist surface of San Francisco and using nearby locales to her advantage. di Marco has a knack for setting the scene and does so succinctly. Her characters are almost as strong. The leads, Julia, Don, Cheryl, were so well done that I could forget they weren't real. The secondary characters weren't quite that strong but were still strong and believable.
Julia, though new to detecting, handled herself well and her involvement was believable. There were a few incidences near the beginning where I questioned the likelihood of events occurring but patience paid off and everything came together in a believable fashion. Julia used her brain to figure things, she didn't rely on chance and while she made some mistakes, they were believable and she didn't come across as a too-stupid-to-live heroine. She was caring, compassionate, sometimes impulsive, smart, but never too perfect. There's a scene where she goes after some people harassing her that had me going "No way!" even as I also laughed. It was rash, a little bit mean, and yet it felt utterly right in context. She was understandably frustrated, frightened, and angry.
The story itself had twists and turns and kept me guessing and di Marco managed to avoid the obvious. She neatly twisted several of my expectations. I considered and dismissed the person ultimately revealed as the killer but the clues are there if you look back. The topic of astrology was confusing at times, and I still don't believe in it, but it was interesting and it was a new way of looking at events and clues. "The Madness of Mercury" is a good start to a series that promises to be well-written and engaging. I was so involved in reading the story that I forgot to take any notes for the review! :D
About Connie di Marco ~
Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries from Midnight Ink. She was fascinated by astrology at an early age and this was the inspiration that gave birth to Julia Bonatti, San Francisco astrologer and her newspaper column Ask Zodia. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the Soup Lover’s Mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime. Connie lives in Los Angeles with her family and a constantly talking cat.
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