Review: Murder at the Fortune Teller’s Table by Janet Finsilver

A Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table by Janet Finsilver is the 3rd book in the Kelly Jackson Mystery series.

“First you drink the coffee,” Auntie said. “ … You must drink from the same side of the cup for the entire process and leave a little in the bottom. With your last sip, make a wish.”

I drank some more, then put the cup down with thoughts for a positive future. “Okay. There's just a little left.”

“Now put the saucer on it upside-down, swirl it three times, and flip it over.”

I did as instructed and managed to keep everything together when I upended it.

“Now it must rest for a short while.” Her voice was a broken whisper, and I leaned forward to catch her words. “The grounds need to flow into their shapes.”

She folded her hands and stared at the cup. After what seemed an eternity, Auntie carefully separated the cup and saucer. “The patterns—they tell of your past, present, and future…”

In the 3rd Kelly Jackson mystery from Janet Finsilver, the curious B&B manager finds herself embroiled in a double murder-by-poison, a convoluted family drama fifty years in the making—and a frightening encounter with some dangerous topiary.

Yes, really.

The middle-aged heroine never intends to end up in the thick of things. She'd much rather focus on her job at the charming Redwood Cove B&B, spend time with her newfound family of fellow employees, and sort out her feelings for executive Scott Thompson. She'd prefer to leave the crime-solving to her grey-haired friends, a group of retirees known as the Silver Sentinels by their close-knit community.

Unfortunately for Kelly, things just seem to naturally snowball around her. It may have something to do with that curiosity of hers.

“The process of elimination means someone killed them,” Martha stated.

With her strident voice, the word killed leapt out. I doubted any of us wanted to go down that path, but there it was. The fork in the road. 

Accept that it was an accident, mourn them, and move on…

Or take a step toward a dark place where people took the lives of others.

Was Auntie—a Greek transplant who read fortunes, brewed herbal concoctions, and was thought to be a witch by some of the townsfolk—the primary target for the cyanide-spiked tea? Or was she merely an unlucky bystander, collateral damage in the murderer's attempt to silence Amy “Summer” Winter, an erstwhile hippie who carried an expensive secret in connection with her son, Mark?

As the plot thickens with the introduction of the strange Nelsen family, Kelly finds herself relying on her background as a ranch-raised tomboy to get out of scrapes. It's also a darn good thing that she's got the Deputy Sheriff on speed dial and the Silver Sentinels poised to tackle any necessary researching.

This being a decidedly cozy mystery, a pair of hearing-assistance Chihuahuas add dollops of canine cuteness to break the occasional periods of tension. There's plenty of chocolaty baked goods, wholesome dinners, and a llama-naming party—because, why not?

The Silver Sentinels are a fun, plucky group of septuagenarians, and Finsilver's greatest strength lies in her locale descriptions: from Auntie's magical cottage to the charming Redwood Cove B&B, it's easy to imagine yourself enjoying a vacation in such vivid surroundings. It's clear that she loves her California coastal setting, and the flourishes of Greek culture in this outing are well-done and evocative. 

Murder at the Fortune Teller's Table is the 3rd of what is sure to be a continuing series: a light, straightforward, and quick read with only one or two small surprises. It lacks depth, but sometimes that's just what the doctor ordered. 

See also: Review: Curioddity by Paul Jenkins


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Angie Barry wrote her thesis on the socio-political commentary in zombie films. Meeting George Romero is high on her bucket list, and she has spent hours putting together her zombie apocalypse survival plan. She also writes horror and fantasy in her spare time, and watches far too much Doctor Who. Come find the angie bee at Tumblr.


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