Saturday, August 13, 2011
It's All Smoke & Mirrors by Therese Szymanski
Publisher: Bella Books
Therese Szymanski's introduces a new character, Shawn Donnelly, who is a complete departure from her series of books featuring Brett Higgins. Trying to choose a genre for this story immediately brings to mind mystery, comedy, and farce, with all three being appropriate. What is apparent is that this is an extremely original and entertaining creation.
In Greek mythology, Cassandra was given the gift of prophecy by Apollo and then cursed by him when he made sure that no one would believe her. Shawn Donnelly must carry some of Cassandra's genetic material in her blood, with a slight twist. Shawn has inherited a sixth sense from her Irish grandmothers. When things aren't just right and something serious is about to occur, Shawn gets the "itch"; the hairs on the back of her neck are her early warning system.
The problem is that Shawn is the queen of misdirection. She usually figures out "what" is wrong, but she invariably is confused about "who" created the problem. In It's All Smoke & Mirrors, Shawn bumbles her way through three mysteries, sometimes helped by old friends from college, but often hindered by them also. In the first she comes to suspect all of her friends when they are isolated in a mountain cabin and one of them is murdered. The second has Shawn convinced the grisly serial killer who is terrorizing men in the city is working in the cubicle near hers. In the final story, the interactive murder theater that Shawn and her friends are performing in for an audience becomes more realistic than what they rehearsed. As Shawn, who has a pixie-like quality, stumbles around trying to solve the mysteries, she will have the reader wondering, if she was your friend, would you laugh with her or have her committed to an institution?
A frequent comment heard about lesbian fiction is that all of the books tell the same story; that they follow a formula of women falling in love, women face conflict, women make up, with sex scenes thrown in. It's All Smoke & Mirrors definitely doesn't fit the formula. The requisite sex scenes are there, but the stories are fresh and go in directions the reader will not anticipate. At times it's not certain whether a character should be liked or slapped, but they're definitely fun to read about.