cover image THE VANISHED PRIESTESS: An Annie Szabo Mystery

THE VANISHED PRIESTESS: An Annie Szabo Mystery

Meredith Blevins, Author . Forge $23.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0780-4

At the start of Blevins's uneven second mystery to feature resourceful Annie Szabo (after 2003's well-received The Hummingbird Wizard ), the California freelance journalist finds her life turned into a three-ring circus in more ways than one. Her eccentric Gypsy fortune-teller mother-in-law, Madame Mina, has parked her trailer in Annie's yard and virtually moved in with her. Annie's daughter, Abra, and Abra's son, Joey, show up just ahead of Annie's violent and abusive son-in-law. And her neighbor, Margo Spanger, the rich, eccentric owner-operator of a New Age circus that helps support a home for abused women, has both animal and human performers whose activities spill over into Annie's territory. When Margo's sudden death proves to be murder, Annie has her hands full tracking down her neighbor's killer as well as protecting her daughter and grandson. Blevins makes effective use of circus lore and ambience, but a surfeit of subplots and important characters only sketchily presented weigh down the narrative. At times Blevins aims for the light, comedic touch, at others for more serious dramatic effects. Hopefully, the author will develop a plot more worthy of the appealing Annie next time. Agent, Susan Gleason. (Oct. 1)