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jenn

Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Fool Me Once (Tarot Mystery, #2)

Fool Me Once  - Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Falco

The first book in this series The White Magic Five and Dime took me by surprise: it was billed as a cozy - and it was - but had a very edgy (for cozies) premise and backstory.  The MC has a shady past, being raised by a thoroughly corrupted mother and mom's boyfriend, growing up while being dragged from one con and scam to the next, until she was old enough to participate in them herself (old enough being under the age of reason - 5?).  She finally runs away and tries to make an honest life for herself and the first book brings us in when she's contacted about her mother's death and her inheritance: a tarot shop her mom was running as a front.

 

I thought at the time it was a stand-alone, but obviously not, and I picked up the second book Fool Me Once some time ago.  It was a quick read and continues to balance that edgy backstory with a cozy mystery setting in a small town and Alanis trying to make amends to her mother's victims.

 

I don't think I can say I like Alanis; as the reader you're privy to her view on other people and her automatic categorisation of everyone she meets.  She wants redemption but struggles to see people as more than objects or to connect with them (because that requires honesty, a virtue alien to the first half of her life).  But she does have a killer smart-ass tongue and her determination to do the right thing keeps the reading entertaining.

 

The murder plot is... so-so.  The killer is a mystery until it isn't because the plot is designed that way - a late introduction of many suspects keeps the reader in the dark.  This irritates some readers, but I'm ambivalent: it's fun knowing you've figured out the clues and solved the puzzle, but it's also nice to be able to thoroughly enjoy the whole book, something that can be harder to do when you've nailed the killer in chapter 4.

 

The authors integrate tarot really nicely into these books: each chapter starts with the (cheeky) description of one of the cards and what its common interpretation is. Whenever Alanis does a reading, they actually illustrate the layout of the cards she's using and an illustration of each card as it's turned over.  I'm only mildly curious about tarot and their use of the illustrations and descriptions was enough without being too much.

 

The third book is out, but this is one of those books that falls in an odd gap for me - I liked it, and thought it was very well written and it held my attention, but I'm not feeling a need to have the next book.  It'll go on my list, but likely will stay there until I have more cash than must have books, or I find it at a bargain price.