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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Review - The Last Grave

This is a new-to-me series that I jumped to read.  The concept of the story intrigued me enough to take a break from the historical mystery reading challenge (click here) and read it.  

Author: Debbie Viguie

Copyright: March 2013 (Penguin) 370 pgs

Series: 2nd in A Witch Hunt novels

Sensuality: n/a

Mystery Sub-genre: Supernatural Police Procedural

Main Characters: Samantha Ryan—homicide detective and witch

Setting: Modern day, San Francisco

Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review

Samantha Ryan left Salem for San Francisco, hoping to forget the horrors of her past. Her past includes a very dark magic side of herself from a mother who raised her in a destructive and black magic coven...and the last novel in which she takes out the last of the coven to save many lives. 

So Samantha runs to San Francisco and takes a job as police detective. But after the magic she indulged in to take down the coven in Salem, she is struggling to fight her own desire to turn to magic to handle everything in her life. 

She is teamed with a partner that nobody else will work with and is handed a murder case of a local historian named Winona Lightfoot. Samantha quickly realizes all leads in the case point to the Santa Cruz Mountains and witches practicing black magic. As Samantha is working the case clue by clue, earthquakes keep rocking the area.  After each earthquake, reality is shifted, such as the hair color of her roommate and friend.  Samantha has to dodge showdowns with witches and piece together what is actually happening before the black magic causes a devastating earthquake.  But she might have to dredge up the bad-ass witch she had been raised to be in order to fight this coven, and there maybe no return if she takes that step.

Samantha Ryan is the troubled heroine with a dark past and near addiction to magic. I wanted to like her, and mostly I did with the exception of her digging into her own psyche and unlocking her past selves in her self treatment sessions. This proves to be dangerous and takes the character someplace I completely didn't like at the end. Presenting her as turning to a cross around her neck like a talisman and other Christian trappings made her even more conflicted. Her difficult partner, Lance is difficult to get a handle on.  He doesn't seem as unsociable and difficult as he was first made out to be. Actually he is often covering for Samantha off investigating on her own.  Lance is a character that seemed a bit undeveloped, part of that might be that he goes through a radical change after one of the earthquakes so the reader starts over getting to know him, which is a drawback in the story I felt.  Anthony, the love interest left behind in Salem, has tremendous potential but is left to a few phone scenes. The room-mate seems to just be minor character moved around as needed.

The rugged Santa Cruz mountains are a great location for this power hungry coven to work its diabolical magic - bwahaha.  It manages to sound beautiful and scary at the same time.

The plot was pretty clear cut with the intriguing idea of the magic triggered earthquakes causing shifts in the planes of alternate dimensions.  At times those shifts could be confusing, but it added a needed umph to the storyline. The pacing was difficult.  At times the story had hold of me and was racing right along, then there were times when it fell a little flat.  I think the characters were lacking and those parts in the book were when the characters would have carried the story forward and it started to flounder a bit.

There is a pretty dramatic climax and confrontation, but it is the wrap up that lost me.  The wrap-up is the setup for the next book and the last minute development with Samantha lost my interest.  As I mentioned, the ending is taking a clear direction with Samantha that looses any likable aspect of the character for me. 

This book has some interesting paranormal aspects and an interesting plot that falters occasionally from under-realized characters and a finish that alienates the reader from the main character.

Rating:  Good - A fun read with minor flaws. Maybe read an excerpt before buying.

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