I needed a break from all the power struggles and politics (Imaginer’s series) that I had been reading about lately. A trip to the New Book section at my local library netted me a fun and well-crafted novel, The White Magic Five and Dime by Steve Hockensmith with Lisa Falco. In some ways it reads like the breezy, guilty pleasures mysteries that I have come to love, yet The White Magic Five and Dime is a bit more. A solid backstory is woven into the book, giving perspective to the characters and their motives. Also woven into the story is a sarcastic interpretation of Tarot cards.
Briefly, Alanis, a very successful telemarketer, learns that her estranged mother is dead, actually murdered. The mother has left her some money, a car, and The White Magic Five and Dime, out of which her mother had been giving Tarot readings. Alanis takes some time off from work to go to the small town near Sedona where her mother lived and to settle matters. Despite her feelings towards her mother, Alanis feels compelled to solve the mystery of her mother’s murder. She finds plenty of suspects, including people whom her mother had conned and her mother’s teenage housemate, Clarice. In order to catch the murderer, Alanis decides to pose as a Tarot reader herself, which requires her to actually learn about the Tarot. Luckily, she finds an informative book, Miss Chance’s Infinite Road’s to Knowing.
The plotline involves more than a woman solving a murder. Slowly we learn why and how Alanis and her mother became estranged. As Alanis reads the Tarot cards and interacts with the townsfolks, we see a gentler side to the snarky, cynical Alanis. Near the end of the novel, Alanis wonders whether her mother gave her the money and store as a gift of kindness or as a long-con, an ultimate revenge. The ending has some wonderful little twists, and, of course, foreshadows new novels in the series. I may have found a new series to love.