In Deep Voodoo
Grade : C+

Stephanie Bond's book In Deep Voodoo has an interesting plot and a wonderful cast of quirky characters. If only the hero and heroine had a spark of chemistry, it would have been an excellent read. But still, a pretty good read is nothing to sneer at.

Penny Francisco and Deke Black were college sweethearts. They married and moved to his Mojo, his hometown in Louisiana, where he joined his father's law firm and she opened The Charm Farm, a health food store. Life looked good, but they didn't live happily ever after. Deke became sullen, his business law practice dropped off, and he made nasty comments about Penny's shop. Then one day Penny found him in bed with Sheena, Queen of the Tanning Booth, and that was the end of their marriage In the divorce settlement she got The Charm Farm and he got the house, which Sheena is painting Pepto Bismol pink.

Mojo is famous for its Voodoo Museum and festival, and the day the festival starts, Penny's old college friends come to give her a divorce party. Penny could use some cheering up...not only is Sheena ruining her old house, but she's just found out that Deke hid some marital assets. Then too, Deke's mother - the town mayor - is giving Penny grief over her plans to put an herb garden next to The Charm Farm. In the course of the party, Penny gets tipsy and stabs a voodoo doll dressed like Deke.

Right after the party, Deke asks to see her and they talk, but it's late and they don't come to any conclusion. Then Deke is found dead - stabbed through the heart with one of the stakes that Penny used to mark off her garden. All the evidence points to her, and police chief Allyson Davis is ready to arrest her right now, but Penny's attorney Gloria disuades Allyson for the time being.

In comes Baron Jeffrey (B.J.) Beaumont, a private investigator who is looking for Jody Reynolds, a missing girl. He's traced her to Mojo, and while he's there, he offers to help Penny with her problem. As the story unfolds, it looks like the missing girl and Deke had some sort of connection and if they can find her, they'll also find who murdered Deke.

In Deep Voodoo has lots of funny quirky characters who all but overshadow Penny and B.J. I have to mention the 111-year-old Jules Lambourne, who swings by Penny's shop everyday for a smoothie. Jules credits that smoothie for keeping her young and giving her the energy for her once a week nooner with her boyfriend at the nursing home. Then there's Jimmy, who roams the woods with his truffle hunting dog, and many others. Mojo is simply chock full of eccentrics, all of whom make Penny and B.J. look a bit anemic by comparison.

While they may not be quite as quirky as others living in town, Penny and B.J. are each interesting enough on their own. Together, though, they lack the je ne sais quoi that makes for a memorable romantic couple. They strike no sparks off each other and their love scenes are pretty tepid.

The actual villain is a creepy piece of work and the crimes are horrible. I'll admit I wondered how the people in a small town like Mojo could be unaware of what was happening, and the nastiness of the crimes is a bit at odds with the humorous tone of the rest of the book. The clash of humor and horror, while not enough to ruin the book, was jarring nonetheless.

There are lots of characters in In Deep Voodoo and there will be a sequel out next year. I'll probably read it, just to see if Jimmy the truffle hunter ever takes a bath and to find out if Sheena falls off her stilettoes again.

Reviewed by Ellen Micheletti
Grade : C+

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : September 26, 2005

Publication Date: 2005

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