That Old Black Magic: A Piper Donovan Mystery
After her last adventure in Sarasota, FL, where she was poisoned and temporarily paralyzed, baker and actress Piper Donovan is looking forward to a working vacation in the city of New Orleans.
This latest episode finds her in the Big Easy shortly before the start of the city’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade, a colorful and festive affair. She is scheduled to work with the great Bertrand Olivier, co-owner and chef baker of the renowned Boulangerie Bertrand, a grand and well-known bakery in the French Quarter. She is looking forward to learning from him, as well as sharing her ideas for a couple’s wedding cake.
"If you’re a fan of the series, you should definitely read this latest entry. If you’re not, you would probably still enjoy the book as a stand-alone, but it would be more enjoyable if you read at least one or two of the previous installments before digging into this tasty treat."
But Piper’s supposedly restful week in the Big Easy turns into a nerve-wracking time shortly after her arrival. Even though she came to New Orleans to work in the bakery, while there she gets an opportunity to audition for, and be in, an upcoming feature film. Then, as if that’s not exciting enough, a killer starts a murder spree. The first victim is the owner of a deli just down the street from the bakery. The next victim is Bertrand himself.
The MO for the murders are completely different, but both crime scenes are marked with magical symbols (a whip for the first murder and an egg on top of white flour for the second one), suggesting that the killer is a practitioner of hoodoo, which is similar to voodoo. But hoodoo is not a religion; it emphasizes magic and its various symbols.
Even though Piper has done some amateur sleuthing in the past (that’s how she wound up in trouble during her last adventure), she swears she is not going to get involved this time. But, as you may have guessed, she can’t help herself: she inadvertently discovers that the first two murders are connected. Will there be a third murder? Will she be able to stop it in time? And does the murderer really practice hoodoo, or is he or she trying to throw authorities off the trail by leaving magical clues?
Author Mary Jane Clark keeps to her tried-and-true formula for the series, that of putting Piper in the middle of a murder scene and then having her get involved in some way. Clark also mixes cooking and baking techniques into the text and includes the recipe for Boulangerie Bertrand Beignets at the end of the book.
If you’re a fan of the series, you should definitely read this latest entry. If you’re not, you would probably still enjoy the book as a stand-alone, but it would be more enjoyable if you read at least one or two of the previous installments before digging into this tasty treat.
Reviewed by Christine M. Irvin on January 24, 2014