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by Diane A.S. Stuckart
Midnight Ink, November 2018
321 pages
ISBN: 073875708X

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

From the first sentence when the reader is dumped into unfamiliar territory just as a pair of black cats is dumped on the side of the road and left to die, it's clear that this isn't going to be a novel where everyone plays nice. Because the reader is hearing the cats' conversation, it's also clear that this is not going to be an ordinary mystery.

Set in Florida, FOOL'S MOON by Diane A.S. Stuckart introduces Ophelia, Brandon Bobtail, and Zuki—two cats and a friendly pit bull—as well as their owner Ruby the Fairly Competent Tarot Card reader. The cats have been abandoned because their owner drowned, and shortly thereafter, their former housekeeper Luciana comes to Ruby for a reading because she suspects foul play, even though the drowning was ruled an accident. When Luciana herself is also killed in what appears to be an accident, Ruby, the dog, cats, and a psychic koi try to discover the truth by unravelling clues held in the tarot cards and by those around them, all while avoiding danger themselves.

To be clear, with talking fish and animals, a fairly light tone, a possible romance, and a bit of tarot guidance, FOOL'S MOON is no dark psychological study. However, it's also not quite as whimsical as it may seem at first glance. Bad things really do happen to characters the reader cares about, Ruby and her pets are well drawn and charming, and both the plot and the solution are interesting and believable. They're also more compelling than you might suspect: the pacing keeps a sense of danger fairly constant, even though you're almost always certain that the good guys are going to win in the end, so although there's not a lot of fast-paced action, there's enough to keep the pages turning. Red herrings abound and are believable enough to cause pause, although it's likely that the reader may get to the finish a couple of steps ahead of Ruby and her animals. Then again, there are enough twists to keep even the most savvy reader guessing. Overall, FOOL'S MOON is surprisingly delightful, plenty of fun, and the first in what promises to be an intriguing new series from the author of the Black Cat Bookshop mysteries.

§ Meredith Frazier, a writer with a background in English literature, lives in Dallas, Texas

Reviewed by Meredith Frazier, October 2018

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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