Thursday, July 3, 2014
SUNNY - BOOK REVIEW "Bitter Spirits" by Jenn Bennett
There's a big curse in little Chinatown…and it's not Prohibition.
It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…
Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.
Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her.
On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…
Bitter Spirits is book 1 in Jenn Bennett’s new Roaring Twenties series. The best way for me to describe this book is TECHNICOLOR. This great mystery adventure has vibrant writing, witty dialogue, nail-biting suspense, and features one of the most beautiful cities in the world, San Francisco. I love this setting. It captures the rich history and energy of the San Francisco I know and the one I imagine from the 1920’s.
The characters jump off the page. Aida can see dead people. Actually, she can call them from the otherside. She can also send them back. Her special talent brings her into contact with one of the 3 most successful bootleggers in San Francisco, Winter Magnusson, whom a mysterious stranger has cursed. The attraction is immediate but the relationship takes a bit longer. Both must overcome a certain reluctance to be vulnerable in order to be together. As Winter puts it: “Sure, he’d been thinking about her a lot—too much—but he thought a lot about bacon, too.”
Winter is dark and resolved to be that way after a tragic accident kills members of his family. Now he hides himself behind his orderly world filled by work and guilt. Aida dares to challenge him with hope. Both carry emotional and physical scars. That’s what makes their relationship electric (that and just a dusting of erotica).
One of my favorite parts of this book is how the eclectic characters defy social convention. They consist of a scarred bootlegger being chased by ghosts, a full-freckled spiritualist who can call and send ghosts back from the otherside, a hoodoo witch who owns a speakeasy, and a Chinese thief turned trusty side-kick. In their world “social rules concerning race and class went unheeded here.” I appreciate the author's nod to the prejudices of the day.
Jenn Bennett has a way with words. There are some wonderful lines and phrases. You can almost hear Winter’s voice: “It was a voice that could probably talk you into doing anything. A siren’s call, rich as the low notes of a perfectly tuned cello.”
IN A NUTSHELL:
The tension induced by the uncertainty of the relationship and the mystery of the curse, plus the witty writing makes this book a pure pleasure. I did not want it to end. Bitter Spirits is one of my favorite PNR reads this year.