Deadly Curiosities by Gail Z. Martin
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy
Release date: June 24 2014
Source: e-ARC from publisher via NetGalley
The nitty-gritty: An atmospheric tale filled with fascinating historical details, a protagonist with a very cool ability, and lots of scary ghosts and shadowy corners.
Chuck rolled his eyes. “You guys ever hear about how Hitler wanted to collect supernatural objects? You know, like in Indiana Jones?”
Teag put the kettle on to boil and came over to listen. I nodded in response.
“Yeah, well over the years, he wasn’t the only one. Every two-bit dictator and narco lord thinks he’s be so much more bad-ass if he just had a demon or two on his payroll. Or an old Egyptian artifact that makes enemies turn into cockroaches. You get the picture. Well, we were the guys they sent in to steal that shit back.”
This was my first outing with Gail Z. Martin, and I have to say it was lovely! This urban fantasy felt almost like a cozy mystery to me at times, although of course it has a strong supernatural element. The story takes place in Charleston, South Carolina, and Martin’s wonderful descriptions of the city were among my favorite parts of the book. She also adds lots of historical tidbits about Charleston, especially spooky details that pertain to the ghostly residents of the city. Add in well-developed characters and a tension-filled plot, and you have a winning story that has something for everyone.
Cassidy Kincaide runs an antique shop called Trifles and Folly, which has been in her family for generations. But the “shop” part of the business is simply a cover for what Cassidy really does: she uses her gift of psychometry to tell if an old object has bad psychic vibes, which she does by simply touching it. With the help of her assistant Teag and her vampire friend Sorren, Cassidy makes sure these objects never reach the hands of the general public.
But when ordinary objects start acting up in bizarre and frightening ways, Cassidy and her friends must try to figure out what’s going on. With mysterious murders happening to the homeless residents of Charleston, Cassidy knows it’s all connected somehow. And then there are the weird shadows that start following her. Things are getting spookier—and more dangerous by the minute.
The story is told in Cassidy’s first-person voice, and I really enjoyed her character. I was expecting some kind of romantic entanglement, and frankly I was expecting that guy to be Sorren the vampire, but I was pleasantly surprised that Martin decided to leave out the romance. And honestly, I didn’t really miss it. There was so much going on with the plot and the characters, that a romance would have felt tacked-on. Cassidy’s psychic gift was pretty cool, and the fact that she can “see” emotional impressions on old objects made me wonder if anything in my house has any psychic fingerprints, LOL! (But judging by Cassidy’s reactions to the worst of the objects, I don’t think I’d want that gift for myself.)
I also loved Teag, who has his own unique gift. He’s a “weaver” and can cast spells by weaving things together, like string or yarn. He also puts his talents to use on the internet and is able to access the Darke Web, a clandestine area where dark magic and secrets collide on the interwebs.
But I have to say my favorite character was someone who showed up way late in the story, but added so much despite his late arrival. Chuck Pettis is an older guy who is convinced that if the hundreds of ticking clocks in his house wind down, he’ll die. So he goes to great lengths to keep the clocks wound, and he even has a warehouse full of back-up clocks to replace the ones that die. (And this warehouse is very important to the story, which is how Cassidy and company meet Chuck.) Chuck was full of life and humor, and I wish that he’d made an appearance much earlier, because I would have liked to get to know him better. Plus his story line had a very Twilight Zone feel to it.
Sorren, the 600-year-old vampire who is Cassidy’s partner and protector, was a bit of a puzzle to me. Strangely, he doesn’t really show up until about a third of the way through the story, and then he’s suddenly there without much explanation. His character fascinated me, however, and I wanted to know more about his previous life as a thief. I would love a Sorren short story or prequel to read!
The cozy feeling of the story eventually turns dark and dangerous as the group faces shadow monsters, a man named Moran who is trying to locate a deadly artifact that was supposedly lost in a shipwreck, and even a demon. There is a slow build up to the suspenseful parts, and by the time you reach the end, the tension is nearly unbearable.
I noticed a few places that could have used more editing, in particular the fact that Sorren’s teeth are described as “long eye teeth” over and over again. I also felt there were times when the characters did too much explaining in their dialog, and what should have felt natural began to feel stilted and awkward.
But small quibbles aside, I had so much fun reading Deadly Curiosities. There were some very special emotional moments with Cassidy, especially when she uses her dead Grandmother’s wooden kitchen spoon to ward off evil, and her dearly departed dog’s collar as a protective talisman. The ghost dog, named Bo, also shows up to help out the gang, and the story would not have been the same without him.
If you love southern charm, historical details and a ghostly tale, this book should go on your reading list. Big thanks to the publisher for supplying a review copy. The above quote was taken from an uncorrected proof and may differ in the final version.
Come back next week for my stop on Gail’s blog tour! I have a cool interview with her, and I’ll be giving away a copy of Deadly Curiosities as well!
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