"A frothy and stirring tale that blends music, magic, and romance."– Kirkus Reviews
An art nouveau dragonfly entangles a detective and a psychic in a confusing case.
Psychic Camden owns a boardinghouse filled with odd characters cordially disliked by his wife, Ellin, who runs the Psychic Network Service and wants Cam to quit his salesclerk job and do shows for the network. She’s especially upset because Matt Graber, a fake psychic who uses two pythons in his act, has gone over her head to get a show on the network. One of Cam’s tenants is David Randall, a private detective who often counts on Cam for help with his cases (Baby Take a Bow, 2017, etc.). David’s newest client is Leo Pierson, a flamboyant actor whose home has recently been robbed of several valuable art nouveau pieces, including a stunning Lalique dragonfly reputed to be cursed. Although Pierson inherited them from his father, there’s been an ongoing family feud, and the pieces that were stolen are reputed to hold a clue to a large fortune. Several habitués of the art world knew about the collection. Although Pierson doesn’t suspect them, Randall thinks interviewing them is a great place to start. Meanwhile, museum curator Samuel Gallant has gone missing. When they visit a gallery, Cam has a vision of Gallant’s dead body, and sure enough, the corpse is soon found in a storage closet. Kit, a musician who lives at the boardinghouse, is another psychic who’s leaned on Cam to learn how to control his powers. Now it’s Cam who’s having problems and taking pills to help with his headaches and sudden frenetic waves of visions followed by no visions at all. Everyone in the boardinghouse pitches in to help Randall with the case, investigating people involved in the art world and digging up dirt on their pasts. In the end, Cam will need the help of those pythons to get over his uncontrollable visions.
The mystery is nothing to write home about, but the high-maintenance housemates and talking pythons will certainly hold your attention.
A magical being fleeing her past encounters a young pianist in this novel.
Kalida is one of the Cavern-born, beings whose magical abilities and fighting prowess have made them multi-realm conquerors. Music seems harsh and unnatural to the cold, cruel Cavern-born, but after hearing a prisoner’s song, Kalida finds herself unable to bear her home’s darkness and violence. She escapes to the woods in the realm of Andrea, where she watches the Snowden children, Christine and Charlie, grow up in a nearby manor. Penniless pianist Desmond “Des” Fairweather visits the manor one day at the urging of his friend Jake Banner, a tabloid reporter chasing a scoop that the now-adult Christine can talk to her garden flowers. Des has a tragic past—a spell gone wrong killed his parents—and is reluctant to acknowledge or practice magic. But Jake is convinced Des attracts magical beings and promises an audition with a local symphony in exchange for the musician’s help. Taking a moment to practice on Christine’s piano, Des glimpses an enigmatic woman who seems entranced by his music. The woman, of course, is Kalida. As Jake searches for a story and helps Christine tackle her problems—Charlie is missing and a cousin is scheming to acquire the manor—Des and Kalida pursue a deeper connection. But Kalida’s Cavern-born family has come to take her back to its realm, endangering the whole group. Tesh (The Monsters of Spiders’ Rest, 2017, etc.) writes movingly of Kalida’s gradual metamorphosis after hearing the prisoner’s song (“a crack in our world”), making a compelling case for the transformative power of music. Des and Jake’s interactions are snappily written, with their combative banter and Jake’s antics lending a screwball comedy appeal to balance Kalida’s heavier story. When Des and Kalida do properly meet, a mysterious connection becomes romantic a bit too quickly to not feel forced. The weight put on their sudden true love causes the novel’s later portions to feel a bit rushed. Despite these structural problems, the book delivers a fun read.
A frothy and stirring tale that blends music, magic, and romance.
It will take more than one North Carolina psychic to solve a detective’s tangle of cases.
Private eye David Randall lives in his friend Camden’s Parkland boardinghouse, home to an eclectic bunch of oddballs. Laid-back Camden is a psychic whose prickly, ambitious bride, Ellin, a producer for the Psychic Service Network, is always pushing him to get a better job. When his house-hunting housemate, Rufus Jackson, gets a letter from his ex-wife, Bobbi, telling him that he’s the father of her baby, he and his wife, Angie, ask Randall to check it out. Arriving at Bobbi’s house, Randall finds the police hauling away her body and no baby in sight. Rufus may be the prime suspect, but Bobbi’s been involved in some weird things, including perhaps a plot to sell her baby to finance a fancy new place. In addition, Randall and Camden are helping Janice Chan, whose hot dog establishment is haunted by a ghost fox and whose mother, Mei Chan, wishes she would become a lawyer. When Camden agrees to sing at the Carlyle House, he finds that the ghost of former occupant Delores Carlyle is trapped and wants out. She offers Randall $30,000 in hidden gems if he can entice her estranged daughter, Beverly, to the house. In exchange, Beverly insists that Randall get her son, Kit, a psychic who hasn’t learned to handle his power, a place to live. While juggling all these secondary problems, Randall and Kary, the love of his life, pose as a couple looking at the extravagant houses Bobbi loved as well. It takes all of Randall’s detective skills and the powers of both Camden and Kit to clear up the whole mess.
The fifth in Tesh’s psychic series (Just You Wait, 2015, etc.) is again more enjoyable for the odd mix of characters than the meager mystery.
Covens, centennial celebrations, and murders rock a small North Carolina town.
Madeline Maclin Investigations must juggle a surprising number of cases for such a quiet rural area as Celosia. Former beauty queen Mac and her husband, Jerry Fairweather, a reformed con man who works as a short-order cook, quickly become involved in several murder cases. First the body of a young man is found in a local vineyard covered in witchcraft signs. There used to be a coven of sorts in Celosia, and although the girls with the Darkrose tattoo claim they’re just fans of a popular book series, some interested parties fear they’re following in the footsteps of their elders—in some cases, their mothers. Mac, who has no client for the vineyard murder, is soon hired by Amanda Price, a woman of considerable substance in Celosia, who’s determined to stage an outdoor play honoring Emmaline Ross, one of the state’s earliest female vintners. Pushy, opinionated Amanda steps on so many toes trying to get the project going that she’s the obvious suspect when Harold Stover, who violently opposed her, is found dead. Undaunted, Amanda makes plenty of new enemies casting the play, especially as she plans to play the lead role. But wouldn’t they rather kill Amanda than Harold? At length Mac learns that both Amanda and her unacknowledged flower-child sister grew up in a local commune. Jerry’s insights as the music and lyric writer for the play help uncover more clues. So does his talent for picking locks. Even though Amanda’s the worst possible client, Mac, convinced of her innocence, continues her search for a killer or two.
Mac’s fifth adventure is just as quirky as its predecessors (A Bad Reputation, 2014, etc.), with the bonus of a stronger, more complex mystery.
The murder of a millionaire stirs passions in a small North Carolina town.
Former reluctant beauty queen Madeleine Maclin (A Hard Bargain, 2007, etc.) is now a private detective patrolling Celosia, a little town that provides her with a surprising amount of work. She and her husband, retired con man Jerry Fairweather, live in a large house he inherited from his uncle while Jerry, who refuses money from his wealthy family, searches for a job that doesn’t require him to swindle anyone. Small-town boy–made-good Wendall Clarke, arriving in Celosia with his beautiful wife, Flora, plans to open an art gallery. His ex-wife and several other local artists may be furious, but they still line up to get their work shown. When Wendall is found murdered at the gallery, Flora hires Madeleine, who makes some surprising discoveries, including Flora’s long list of former husbands, none of them rich enough for her tastes. In addition, Madeleine has troubles of her own. Honor Perkins arrives in town trying to entice Jerry back into con games and separate him from Madeleine. Jerry’s forced to get involved in several séances to keep Honor from causing too much trouble. Madeleine’s investigations reveal that some local artists have a lot to hide. But did any of them hate Wendall enough to kill him?
Enjoyably quirky and sympathetic characters don’t quite make up for a weak mystery.
It takes a combination of psychic ability and a knowledge of magic tricks to solve the murder of a magician.
Private investigator David Randall (Mixed Signals, 2012, etc.) is suddenly flush with cases. A socialite asks him to find her missing diamond bracelet, and magicians Taft and Lucas Finch want him to locate a missing box which was reputedly owned by Harry Houdini. Randall is happy to have his mind occupied so that he’s not constantly feeling guilty about the death of his daughter. Although he’d like to marry his housemate and girlfriend, Kary, his overprotectiveness puts her off. Another housemate, Camden, is always willing to help on cases. But although his psychic powers are often helpful, Camden has problems of his own. He’s lost his beautiful singing voice, and Ellin, the girl he wants to marry, reports troubles with her Psychic Service Network’s TV programming. A visit to the magic club where the Finch brothers were working reveals the body of Taft, murdered and hidden in a magician’s trunk. As always, the cops warn Randall away, but since both the club owner and Lucas want him to solve the crime and find the box, he continues to investigate the local magicians, whose tight little community is a hotbed of jealousy, bruised egos and theft. Kary succeeds in becoming a magician’s assistant, and Camden uses his abilities to try to get rid of the pushy fake psychic who’s driving Ellen crazy, but it’s a combination of clues from both that finally solves the crime.
The charms of Tesh’s quirky characters often outweigh the mystery.
A North Carolina private eye and his psychic pal combine their talents to solve a murder.
David Randall, who’s in love with his fellow boarder, Kary, a college student who wants to help with his detective work, awaits his mother’s Christmas visit with mixed feelings because he knows she’ll want to talk about the death of his daughter in a car crash. In the meantime, his landlord, Camden, finds his friend, Jared Hunter, who’s been released from jail after his conviction for his part in a local museum break-in, dead in a pool of blood. Violent flashbacks make Cam feel that he’s connected to the killer. In addition to investigating the murder, David is vexed by a series of robberies that proceed apace despite the appearance of a clumsy superhero who calls himself the Parkland Avenger. Ambitious reporter Brooke Verner of the Parkland Herald, whose editor’s institutionalized son had served time along with Jared, is on the case of the Avenger. Branching out on his own, David discovers that the thieves are using a network of tunnels under the old part of town. As his mother continues her efforts to get David to talk about his sorrows, Kary joins a local superhero group that denies that the Avenger is a member, and Cam continues to have debilitating psychic revelations. Will David solve the murders and robberies in time to provide a merry Christmas?
Randall's second appearance (Stolen Hearts, 2011) combines a solid mystery with a plethora of suspects and quirky regulars.
A P.I. and a psychic team up to solve a series of crimes.
Private eye David Randall’s life is a mess. The death of his daughter in a car crash has left him with a heavy burden of guilt and two failed marriages. Quitting his job with a detective agency to go out on his own, Randall immediately picks up a case. Since he’s been living in his car, he reluctantly takes up his psychic friend Camden’s invitation to stay in his huge boarding house, which even has room for an office. Camden’s boarders are a mixed bunch. Many don’t even pay rent. But Randall is hooked when he sees Kary Ingram, a beautiful college student with a troubled past. His first client is Melanie Gentry, who wants him to find proof that her great-grandmother Laura, drowned 60 years ago, was the real author of a collection of folksongs credited to her lover, John Burrows Ashford. Randall had recently stumbled on a murder distinguished by a book of musical notations found on the scene. Now bits of music seem to turn up everywhere. Ashford’s great-grandson provides no help, but Melanie gives Randall the names of a few people who might know something. Camden is being pressured by his ambitious girlfriend to take part in a PBS program on folksongs. When he’s suddenly possessed by Ashford’s arrogant spirit, Randall has to do something to solve both the past and present mysteries.
Tesh (A Hard Bargain, 2007, etc.) gets her new series off to a promising start.
A former beauty-pageant regular reinvents herself as a private eye in the little town of Celosia, N.C.
Madeline Maclin is living with her old college pal Jerry Fairweather, scion of a wealthy family, who leads an aimless life running harmless scams involving the occult. Blaming himself for his parents’ death in a household fire, he refuses to enter his childhood home. Mac, who’s in love with Jerry, wants to prove the blaze wasn’t his fault. She suspects his sister Harriet holds the key. Meanwhile, the rundown house Jerry’s bat-loving uncle left him has become the setting for a low-budget horror movie based on a local bogeyman known as Mantis Man. When director Josh Gaskin is poisoned during the shoot, Mac has a host of suspects, among them the missing inventor who lost a film award to Josh in high school, the over-the-hill movie star unhappy with his role, Jerry’s sleazy con-artist friend and a local group who fear the Mantis Man publicity will blight Celosia’s southern charm. Mac and Jerry must deal with a ferret who acts like a poltergeist and a bevy of fanatical pageant fans before Mac tackles the real murderer, clears up her caseload and gets Jerry to pop the question.
Tesh (A Case of Imagination, not reviewed) spins an intriguing, wryly amusing tale of a beauty queen trying to get respect.