Only the most recent posts pop up on the HOME page. For searchable lists of titles/series reviewed on this Blog, click on one of the Page Tabs above. On each Page, click on the series name to go directly to my review.

AUTHOR SEARCH lists all authors reviewed on this Blog. CREATURE SEARCH groups all of the titles/series by their creature types. The RATINGS page explains the violence, sensuality, and humor (V-S-H) ratings codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their Ratings. The PLOT TYPES page explains the SMR-UF-CH-HIS codes found at the beginning of each Blog review and groups all titles/series by their plot types. On this Blog, when you see a title, an author's name, or a word or phrase in pink type, this is a link. Just click on the pink to go to more information about that topic.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Author:  Rochelle Staab
Plot Type:  Paranormal Cozy Mystery (COZ)
Publisher and Titles:  Berkley Prime Crime
        Who Do, Voodoo? (2011)
        Bruja Brouhaha (8/2012
        Hex on the Ex (5/2013)

     This review is very late in comingsorry about that. This post was revised and updated on 8/1/14 to include a review of Hex on the Ex, the third book in the series. That review appears first, followed by an overview of the world-building and reviews of the first two books.

          BOOK 3:  Hex on the Ex          
     Liz has moved into her new home and is in the middle of a major bathroom renovation, which has left her without bathing facilities. Her solution is to work out and shower at Game On, the work-out club co-owned by Jarret, Liz's ex-husband, who is a star relief pitcher for the Dodgers, and Kyle, Jarret's trainer. Liz's trips to the club have been working out fine for the past day or two, but then someone from Liz's past life in Atlanta shows up at Game OnLaycee, Liz's former best friendthe one who had the affair with Jarret that was the catalyst for Liz's divorce five years ago. When Laycee turns up dead in Jarret's bed the morning after the two ex-friends have an angry confrontation at a Dodgers baseball game, both Liz and Jarret are at the top of the police department's suspect list.

     The story follows Liz and her boyfriend, Nick, as they try to disprove a police detective's theory that Liz murdered Laycee out of jealousy when she went over to Jarret's house to pick up some boxes of books and found Laycee in his bed.  Nick gets pulled into the investigation because the murderer drew an occult symbol in blood on Laycee's back, and Nick is a specialist in the occult. By the time the case is resolved, Liz and Nick have had to investigate a drug-dealing friend, a phony TV producer, a satanic killer, an ex-girlfriend, a jealous husband, and a case of mistaken identity.

     The author supplies a plethora of clues and suspects and enough red herrings to keep the reader guessing. Although the plotting is well done, I was still able to guess "whodunit" well before the big reveal. That doesn't mean that the story is weak, though, because it was fun to watch the whole situation play out. 

     Even if you didn't develop a dislike for the arrogant Jarret after reading the first two books, you will hate probably him by the end of this one as he and his lawyer throw Liz under the bus in an attempt to save Jarret's reputation and his place on the team. Even Liz's momone of Jarret's biggest fansturns against him. The romantic relationship between Liz and Nick is smooth and strong by now, even if they do live in separate houses. 

     This is a stronger book that the previous one, mostly because of the complexity and originality of the plot and the interesting array of supporting characters. I certainly hope that Nick's friend, Horusa tattooed, Oxford-educated devil worshipperturns up in a future book; she actually deserves a series of her own. Click HERE to read an excerpt on this book's page. Just click on the cover art at the top left of that page.

     The paranormal elements in this new series are based mostly on the occult (e.g., spirits of the dead, voodoo, seances, hexes). The heroine is the pragmatic Dr. Elizabeth (Liz) Cooper, a psychologist who is pretty sure that she doesn't believe in the supernatural. Her new boyfriend, Nicholas (Nick) Garfield, is a religious philosophy professor and an expert on the occult. Much of their dialogue is devoted to sparring about their opposing views about magic.

     Supporting characters include Robin Bloom, who is Liz's BFF; Dave Gordon, Liz's brother (and Nick's BFF), who is a police detective; and Liz's mother, who loves to read tarot cards and spends much of her time interfering in all aspects of her daughter's life. Liz has recently divorced her cheating husband, Jarret, a heavy-drinking major-league baseball player, and as the series begins, she hasn't had a date since the divorce. The series is set in Los Angeles, and the author does a nice job establishing a sense of place, with lots of references to well-known streets and neighborhoods.

          BOOK 1:  Who Do, Voodoo?         
     As the first book opens, someone is leaving unusual tarot cards and threatening messages on Robin's front doorthe exact same cards that Robin's late husband, Josh, drew in a reading done the night before he was killed in an automobile accident. As more cards show up, Robin asks Liz for help, and Liz, in turn, seeks assistance from Nick. (At the beginning of book 1, Nick is just her brother's friend; he has not yet become Liz's boyfriend.) 

     The plot follows Liz and Nick as they research the tarot cards and begin to realize that some sinister voodoo spells are involved. Then people start dying, and Robin becomes a suspect in one of the murders. Liz and Nick have to unravel the mystery before the police actually arrest Robin and officially charge her with murder. Of course, the romantic relationship builds between Liz and Nick as they work closely together on the case. Their clues include a phony medium, a series of cursed spells, and an old voodoo spell book with links to the murder victims.

     This is a well-written mystery that does a good job at keeping the identity of the murderer a secret until the very end. Liz and Nick are entertaining opposites, and they're obviously going to make a great crime-solving team in the next books in the series. Although the paranormal aspect is relatively lightweight, it's a cute series that will keep you guessing. The characters are likable, and their developing romance should be fun to watch. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

          BOOK 2:  Bruja Brouhaha              
     The plot of this book centers around Santería, a religion that mixes Roman Catholicism with West African beliefs. As the story opens, Liz and Nick are attending a 60th anniversary celebration at the home of their friends, Paco and Lucia Rojas, practitioners of Santería who own the Botanica Rojas across from MacArthur Park in the largely Latino Westlake neighborhood of Los Angeles. During the course of the evening, Paco goes downstairs to unlock the door for a neighbor and is murdered in a drive-by shooting. 

     The plot follows Liz and Nick as they unravel the clues and try to find the killer. As they investigate, they discover that several developers have been trying to force Paco to sell his property to them and that their neighbor has close connections to local gangs. When Lucia puts a hex on everyone attending her husband's wake, people call her a bruja (witch). Soon, bad things begin to happen to the attendees, and everyone in the neighborhood turns against Luciasome with accusations, but others with violence.

     Once again, Liz and Nick bicker a lot about the reality of magic—especially Lucia's hex, although Liz does wear the protective bracelet that Lucia makes for her. Another source of contention between the two is the fact that Liz refuses to move in with Nick when her landlord doesn't renew the lease on her townhouse.

     I was disappointed in this book, which is much less successful than book 1. The plot is unoriginal and predictable, with its familiar story of the evil land developer who will stop at nothing to gain possession of the property he desires. The Santería elements read like excerpts from a Wikipedia article, and all of the supporting characters are one-dimensional. The author pads the pages with detailed lists of what the lead characters eat and the clothes that the heroine wears—always a sign of a thinly developed plot. I had high hopes for this series after reading book 1, but with the drop in quality in this book, I have revised my opinion downward. Click HERE to read an excerpt.

No comments:

Post a Comment