Alanis MacLachlan grew up as the daughter of a notorious con artist, who often used the girl as part of her scams. Alanis never went to school, or knew her father, and her mother changed their names every few weeks. After her mother was murdered, she left her daughter the White Magic Five and Dime, an occult themed tourist trap and fortune telling parlor in Berdoche, Arizona, a low rent version of Sedona. A teenage half sister, Clarice, was also left in Alanis’ care.
Alanis reads the cards of a middle aged man who turns up dead at a hotel the next day. Who could have killed him? She has her suspicions when a man from her mother’s past appears. Biddle, a man who her mother lived with and was as much as a father figure as Alanis ever had in her life, was last seen in an Ohio cornfield being pursued by armed gangsters. It’s no coincidence—as Alanis discover when an eccentric German billionaire shows up in town looking for a Van Gogh painting that was stolen years ago. Did Alanis’ mother have something to do with it?
Readers who have enjoyed Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies will enjoy this series featuring a con artist gone straight. This is third in the series of Tarot mysteries.
Reviewed by Susan Belsky, May 2017.
Shadow of the Wolf
Sherwood’s Doom #1
David Fickling Books/Scholastic, Inc., June 2015
The story of Robin Hood has captivated crowds from Disney fans to lovers of Mel Brooks’ “Men In Tights”. Mr. Hall breathes fresh, furious berserker air into the fable. Although this telling is like no other, there are scenes and scenarios that are spot-on similar to my fondest recollections. Shadow of the Wolf is Robin Hood, maiden Marian, the evil Sheriff of Nottingham; but with back-story that explains so much, yet reveals so little.
Sympathy for Robin comes quickly. In his own village, and on every encounter, it appears that no one is completely honest with him. Reactions rage from wary to fearful to furious; nowhere is welcoming to the young boy banished to Summerwoods. The story of his beloved bow is just one of many secrets shared. We become painfully privy to how Robin Hood was raised, then, abandoned. Acutely aware of the actions that shaped him as he struggled to survive; alone except for the bewitching young Marian and the half-mad goddess and god of the foreboding forest.
The first blow of finding out he isn’t who he thought—his family origins, even his birth date, are false—paled when compared to the remarkable revelation that he is being actively pursued by both the Sheriff of Nottingham, determined to destroy all Winter-Born, and Sir Bors who claims to be the only haven for those creatures born in the cold months among the terrifying trees.
Mr. Hall teases, doling out morsels of mystery in tiny, tantalizing tastes to thoroughly whet the appetite. Content to keep us guessing, one part of the puzzle begins to take shape, while a brand new picture appears to emerge. Enveloped in action, Robin Hood actually fights for his life and tickled by fancy, moved with magic, he learns to acknowledge, accept and adapt. I believe that fans of fantasy, adventure, mystery and magic (from high school students to senior citizens) will relish this retelling.
Reviewed by jv poore, October 2016.