Can a lonely witch find friendship and happiness running a vintage clothing store in San Francisco? Let's hope so, because I fell in love with Lily Ivory, and her familiar, Oscar, in Secondhard Spirits by Juliet Blackwell. It's the first in the new Witchcraft Mystery series, and I hope it's the first of many.
After being expelled from her small Texas town, Lily Ivory has travelled the world, studying witchcraft, and learning about her own natural powers. It took a parrot to advise her to go to San Francisco, but he warned her to "Mark the fog." She's only been in the Haight-Ashbury district for six weeks, but Lily loves her vintage clothing shop, Aunt Cora's Closet. She feels comfortable with the eccentric residents, and her two assistants, Bronwyn and Maya. She's never had many friends, and she's hopeful she might find some in this unusual community.
Blackwell catches the reader's attention immediately with the opening sentence, "Witches recognize their own." And, the arrival of Aiden Rhodes, a gorgeous male witch kicks off an unusual week for Lily, beginning with the present he brought her. Lily's suspicious of gifts, and doesn't really want the familiar he gives her, but when the shapeshifting creature turns into an adorable Vietnamese potbellied pig, named Oscar, she has a hard time getting rid of him. And, it's too late when Bronwyn falls for Oscar.
Lily's too busy to worry about a gift. When she and Maya visit a client, hunting for vintage clothing, their trip is disrupted by the disappearance of a young girl. As she probes a little, Lily discovers other children have disappeared from that area, including the client's own daughter. Lily had heard the wailing of a demon, and was shocked to find La Llorona haunting San Francisco. Legends of "the weeping woman" were common to those, like Lily, who grew up near the Rio Grande. Legend says that a woman, left by her husband, drowned her children, and spends nights wailing and calling for her lost children. Latino parents warn their children not to go out at night, because La Llorona would get them. Now, here in San Francisco, La Llorona was walking, and, possibly, taking children.
Do the disappearing children have anything to do with a murder in which Lily becomes a suspect? Once again, Lily fears she might have to go on the run. But, she decides it's more important to stay, find what haunts a troubled house, and fight to save a child. More than anything, Lily is tired of running. She's ready to find a place to call home, and people to call friends.
Secondhand Spirits can be read for entertainment only. It's a fun story, with romance possibilities with a couple hunky men, terrific vintage clothing, and, of course, the enchanting Oscar. But, there is so much more to this book. It has serious depth, with the history of witches, the persecution of practitioners and women who threatened society. Most of all, the entire book has a theme of loneliness. Lily Ivory isn't the only needy, lonely person in this book. She's a witch, forced to move from town to town. But, there's a homeless man Lily barters services with, a Wiccan coven, a reporter. So many people are as needy as Lily. When Lily reaches out, other people offer help.
Read the book for the mystery, for witches, the story of La Llorona, or entertainment. But, you'll end up wanting the sequel to Secondhand Spirits to return to Lily and Oscar. Thank you, Juliet, for a new group of friends.
Juliet Blackwell's website is www.julietblackwell.net
Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell. Penguin Group (USA), ©2009. ISBN 9780451227454 (paperback), 336p.