The Last Best Book — The Masquerading Magician, by Gigi Pandian

The latest in an occasional series of comments on books that knocked my socks off!

THE MASQUERADING MAGICIAN, by Gigi Pandian (Midnight Ink, 2016), second in the Accidental Alchemist series

Zoe Faust, an herbalist and tea shop owner in Portland, Oregon, looks good for her age—roughly 350 years old. As a teenager cast out of Salem, Massachusetts for suspected witchcraft, she used her plant craft in an attempt to save her dying brother, and accidentally discovered the Elixir of Life which made her immortal. Now she’s desperate to save another life, that of Dorian, the Parisian gourmet gargoyle who lives with her, while solving a murder at a magic show and discovering the truth behind a famous theft of jewels more than fifty years ago that have never been recovered—until now.

Pandian achieves something particularly challenging—and delightful—in The Masquerading Magician. She creates an alternate world that is completely credible and compelling—and presents it quickly, clearly, and credibly in book two. Readers new to the series, as I was, will grasp the unique elements of this world and accept them, while readers who’ve read book one, The Accidental Alchemist, won’t feel weighed down by repetitive details. Short snippets from the 1850s to 1880s in Paris, in the world of cathedral sculpture, alchemy, and magic, are used with great effect.

I’ll be reading book one soon, so I can be ready for book three, which I’m fairly sure will take us to Paris!

The Last Best Book — Wilde Lake, by Laura Lippman

The latest in an occasional series of books that knock my socks off! (Although in this fall weather, I’ve had to put them back on, darn it!)

WILDE LAKE by Laura Lippman (William Morrow, 2016)

Luisa Brandt is the newly-elected State’s Attorney in Howard County, Maryland, the same position her father once held. He’s still described as “beloved,” and Lu feels that label as burden, challenge, and comfort. But her first murder trial in her new job will shake everything she thinks she knows about herself and her family.

Lippman’s recent standalones often weave together a contemporary storyline and an older one. In WILDE LAKE, as in AFTER I’M GONE, the present-day story covers a short period and the investigation of a present-day crime with ties to long-ago events that are played out over years, even decades. Lippman handles the time shifts beautifully, and she captures the 1970s and 1980s with exactly the right details.

Few authors are smarter about observing women in modern culture, and the struggles we often face because of our social roles.

I read this book in audio. The two narrators—one for the current-day story, one for the historic chapters—have distinctive, clear styles that drew me in and kept me good company on a long drive over the mountains and back.