My latest fascination these days are books that are works of fiction dealing with the paranormal. I’ve encountered some pretty great authors, but one who has amazed me is Gail Z. Martin who has done more than produced intriguing stories dealing with the paranormal and supernatural, she does one of the best jobs of world-building over a myriad of books that I have ever read since Larry Niven and his books connecting with Tales of the Known Universe. I’ll start with the most recent book I’m reading, but by no means her most recently written, Deadly Curiosities.
Cassidy Kincaide lives in Charleston, South Carolina. She is the proprietor of a shop called Trifles & Folly. At first, it looks like a unique antique shop, but beneath that Cassidy, along with her business partner Teag and silent partner Sorren, looks for dangerous items imbued with dark magic that can cause harm. There is also more to Cassidy than meets the eye. She has her brand of psychic ability. She is a psychometric. This allows her the ability to read strong emotions connected to objects, especially those that have been “touched” by darkness. It’s a dangerous ability as it can knock her flat on her backside, but she can gain useful information with it nonetheless. Her partner Teag is a weaver. His magical gift allows him to work spells into woven goods as well as into the web of the Internet. As for silent partner Sorren, he’s a vampire and has been an ally to Cassidy’s family for some time.
What starts as a simple investigation into a pair of curiously enchanted opera glasses (which allows the user to look into a specific tragedy of the past, but only during a theatrical performance) turns into something far more sinister. More objects show up that have dark magic attached to them and as they explore the history of these items they come across a very evil man who has conjured a demon. Now innocent people are being murdered in Charleston and Cassidy, along with Teag and Sorren, plus some new friends with their own unique skills, must find the demon’s nest and destroy it before more innocent people are killed, including Cassidy.
While this sounds like a simple paranormal story, what amazed me is the amount of detail that Martin goes into exploring and explaining the different areas of magic, and she hasn’t limited herself to this one book. It’s a trademark of hers throughout all of the books she has written that all take place within this same universe, but each series containing its own characters. For example, Cassidy is befriended by a powerful woman named Lucinda, who is a Voudon friend of Sorren. She practices West African spirit magic and is assisted by the spirits of her departed ancestors in battling evil magical creatures. The detail that Martin goes into explaining how Lucinda’s magic works is nothing less than impressive. She also explores the regions where her stories take place in, and setting this in Charleston allows for her to make use of the haunted place that city is reputedly known for. I should also add that her books are more than LGBTQ friendly. While Cassidy is not a member of the LGBTQ community, her business partner Teag is. He’s gay and has a boyfriend named Anthony who does make an appearance more than once throughout this book. He’s not overtly magical, but Cassidy senses that he has some very strong insights and is very impressionable when in areas permeating with dark magic. One other interesting fact about Cassidy is that she is the cousin of Simon Kincaide. Does that name ring a bell? If you’re a regular reader of my reviews then it should for Simon happens to be the star of the “Badlands” series of books I reviewed earlier this year, but for those stories, as well as others where her chief protagonists are men from the LGBTQ community, Martin writes under the penname of Morgan Brice, and under that name, she has written the aforementioned “Badlands” series as well as the “The Witchbane” series with Seth Tanner and his boyfriend as they hunt dark witches who were responsible for murdering Seth’s younger brother, and Simon Kincaide has made a cameo in that series. Another book, written under the Martin name, where Simon appeared is in Sons Of Darkness, which is part of the “Night Vigil” series, and it is a dark thrill ride where former priest Travis Dominick and ex-special ops Brent Lawson work together in combating supernatural monsters and demons. Travis and Brent even make an appearance in one of the “Badlands” books.
This is the magic (pardon the pun) of these collective works by Gail Z. Martin/Morgan Brice. Not only has she written stories that are very LGBTQ positive, showing that people from our community do have our own brand of strength and courage, but the level of research and connectedness also makes these stories incredibly fun to read. While it’s not necessary to read all of them to know who all of these players are, it certainly makes it more enjoyable when you finish one series and then move to another of hers and witness all of the pieces of the puzzle come together. It is my hope that if she chooses to end working in this world of hers that she decides to write one big blow-out story bringing all of these characters together, ranging from Pittsburgh where Travis and Brent (and sometimes Seth and boyfriend Evan) operate, down to Myrtle Beach where psychic-medium and folklore expert Simon, along with his fiance Vic (a police detective relocated from Pittsburgh) conduct their own battles against the darkness. That would make for one incredibly fun ride!
In the meantime, if you want to just dip your toe into the world of haunted objects with demons and nefarious (but fictional) characters from history, then look no further and take a trip on the juju side with Deadly Curiosities!