The White Magic Five & Dime (A Tarot Mystery)
by Steve Hockensmth with Lisa Falco
Cover Artist: Miles Hymen / LIndgren & Smith; Topanga Mall Tarot Images from
Roberto de Angelis's Universal Tarot
Review by Gayle Surrette
MIDNIGHT INK Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780738740225
Date: 08 July 2014 List Price $14.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Alanis McLachlan's surprised to get a call from a small town lawyer in Arizona telling her that her mother is dead and has left her everything in her will. She's not surprised when she learns her mother was murdered -- only that it didn't happen years ago. Alana was surprised her mother had given her contact information to the lawyer though -- afterall, they hadn't talked in over a decade, and Alanis had a different name.
She expects to take a quick trip to Berdache, Arizona, solve her mother's murder, and then take the money, sell the business, and find herself some peace and maybe a new life. Alanis was trying really hard to overcome her childhood as part of her mother's con games. She was even trying to see people as people and not marks -- not succeeding very much, but trying; she figured that had to count for something. When she arrives she finds more than she bargained for. First, her mother had a teenaged boarder living with her in the apartment over the shop. Second, her mother had lots and lots of enemies -- not such a surprise, but still. And, third, some of the customers of The White Magic Five & Dime were already calling and dropping in for readings. Alanis would have to learn to read tarot cards in order to solve her mothers murder along with the string of loose ends from her mother's current cons.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this book but I'd liked Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range series. The main character, Alanis McLachlan, has a great voice -- tough, hard-headed, fact driven but with a wistfulness for family, friends, and maybe even someone to care about and for. The supporting characters are a mixed and quirky lot that really make the town and the situation come alive for the reader.
The underlying mystery of who killed her mother is complex with enough twists and turns to keep the reader turning the pages even if the situation and characters didn't pull you in and keep you going. I usually can come up with the who-did-it fairly early, but this one caught me totally unprepared. I was blindsided but, going back over the book -- the clues are there -- the author played fair.
If you are interested in tarot cards, the chapter headings dealing with the major and some of the minor arcana are wonderfully clever interpretations of this particular deck and clearer than most books you'll find on the shelves of your local new age shop. Plus there's a great mystery here as well.
Now to wait for the next book in the series.