Family Secrets

Title: Family Secrets (Whispering Pines Mysteries One)

Publisher/Author: Shawn McGuire

Pages: 285pp

Price: $14.00 / 99 cents

Sixteen years ago, a family rift separated Detective Jayne O’Shea from her beloved grandmother. But now her grandmother has passed away, and it is up to Jayne to get the rambling old family house ready to sell. But when she and her loyal canine Meeka arrive in tiny, quirky Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, they find a dead body in the front lawn. Driven to find justice for the victim — and to overcome her own recent trauma — Jayne decides to investigate. Assisted by local green witch Morgan and handyman Tripp, Jayne uncovers one secret after another, drawing closer to the killer, and putting herself in harm’s way ….

Book lovers are great at recommending new titles to one another. Such is the case with Family Secrets, which was sold to me as “Wiccan murder mystery in the north woods.” I couldn’t resist and downloaded the sample, then the whole book.

Family Secrets is a quick and highly entertaining read. Jayne is a wonderfully appealing character. She is a natural detective: she is curious, stubborn, and determined to see justice done. But she is riven by self-doubt: she let her partner down, watched as a woman she cared about was killed, and broke up with her long-time boyfriend. Whispering Pines is her chance to begin again, but only if she can find her inner reserves of strength and confidence.

The secondary characters are just as interesting and engaging. I particularly like Morgan. A devout Wiccan and herbalist, Morgan runs the local metaphysical shop. She lives and breathes the Wiccan Rede, and carefully explains her faith and its practices to Jayne. The depiction of Wicca in Family Secrets is a pleasant departure from what I too often see in literature; this is not the flashy magic of a paranormal romance or the psychological delusion of a thriller; this is a real world lived faith.

Whispering Pines is virtually a character unto itself. Jayne’s grandparents founded the town in the 1960s when they purchased a few thousand acres near a lake in northern Wisconsin. Gradually, misfits and social outcasts such as Wiccans, fortune tellers, carnies, and others began to settle in the area, and were warmly welcomed by the elder O’Sheas. The village now consists of cottages and a meditation circle and a fairy path and a thriving Wiccan community.

Family Secrets is a great first volume in a long-running mystery series that is now up to nine books. Recommended to anyone looking for a grounded, well-researched Wiccan mystery with engaging characters and plenty of twists and turns.

[Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine, Eternal Haunted Summer. A complete list of her published works can be found there.]