$1257; $7.99 Amazon
June 8, 2016
San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long-lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. Is the young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods - he was a trickster and a liar as well.
Julia Bonatti is an astrologer living and practicing in San Francisco. When she returns home from a visit to her friend Dorothy's - where the body of the gardener, Luis, is discovered - she finds a bit of a problem: people are picketing her home and later, are deeming her a witch. To boot, someone has hacked into her email, she's been threatened at knifepoint, her window has been broken, she has to leave her apartment and move to her grandmother's (where the heater isn't working and it's December) - well, you get the drift. Her life isn't exactly a bed of roses right now; in fact, it's pretty much nothing but thorns.
Since her fellow members of the occult are also being targeted, they're all but sure it's due to the Reverend Roy's followers: a charismatic man whose people are devoutly devoted to rooting 'sinners' out of San Francisco; and to make matters worse, Julia discovers that Dorothy's elderly Aunt Eunice is under his spell along with her caretaker, Gudrun. As if that weren't enough, Dorothy's other aunt, Evandra, is convinced that Dorothy is attempting to kill her, because Dorothy inherits everything if the sisters die...that is, until a handsome young Australian shows up on the doorstep of the Telegraph Hill home and states he's Reggie, the last male heir and the fortune goes to him.
The police, on the other hand, are being told to 'lay off the reverend,' and so aren't doing much of anything to help the people being harassed, which isn't helping the situation any, and it only seems to be worsening, with her friend's shop being firebombed.
When Eunice packs up and leaves Gamble House for Prophet's Paradise, the reverend's compound, Julia knows she can't sit by and watch the elderly woman be taken advantage of, so decides to find Prophet's Paradise and rescue Eunice, but it's not as easy as it seems...
The Madness of Mercury is the start of a new series centering around Astrology, and how it affects peoples' lives. I found the mystery to be quite good, with enough twists to keep the plot interesting, but not so many as to seem unbelievable. Julia herself is a level-headed woman who doesn't go out and take chances without thinking things through. While the other characters weren't as well-defined, there was still enough to them that they didn't feel one-dimensional.
There's a lot about Astrology, a little paranormal (as in ghosts), and it's all wrapped up in an entertaining package that's enjoyable to read. When we finally find out the killer, it comes as a surprise, even though there were clues along the way; but enough red herrings to keep us wondering almost to the end. Recommended.
More on Connie di Marco: https://www.fantasticfiction.com/m/connie-di-marco/