Monday, August 24, 2009

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell

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

Secondhand Spirits by Juliet Blackwell. Penguin Group (USA), ©2009. ISBN 9780451227454 (paperback), 336p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

This sounds intriguing. I haven't read many books featuring witches, but I've always been interested in them.

The loneliness theme is interesting to me, too. I've seen it applied to vampire books (Anne Rice's in particular) but not for witches.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Vivienne said...

This definitely sounds like one I would enjoy reading.

Lesa said...

The loneliness is actually very appropriate, Elizabeth, if you think of a modern day witch, who knows the history of witches and healers, who were used by their communities, and then ostracized, or worse. Since Lily herself was expelled from her small Texas town, she understands.

It's a very good book. Great characters.

Lesa said...

I hope you give it a chance, Vivienne. I think it would be a hard one to put down, once you met the characters.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds like a lot of fun!

Lesa said...

It is a fun book, Bermudaonion, but it certainly has its serious overtones as well. La Llorona is nothing to laugh at.

Clea Simon said...

I love the sound of this - mixing history and serious themes with lighter entertainment. In all honesty, I think I get most of my history from fiction and seem to recall reading somewhere that many women do. At any rate, this sounds like a good one. Thanks for alerting me to it, Lesa!

Lesa said...

I get a lot of my history from fiction, too, Clea. In fact, I remember the history much better if I read it in fiction.

I think you'll really like this book. The elements about friendship are important in Juliet's book, just as it is in your books.

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

This sounds like it would be interesting to read. I also haven't read that many books about witches-it's always fun to try something out of my normal reading zone.

Lesa said...

It's a terrific book, Buckeye Girl. If a number of people haven't read books about witches, maybe Juliet has a good thing going!

Maria said...

Rats. I just ordered a bunch of books from Amazon. Now I'll have to add this to my list for the next order...!

Lesa said...

Yes, I think you'll want to add it, Maria. At least you know it's the first in a series!