Book Reviews

Book Review: Original Secrets

Original Secrets

By Shawn McGuire

488 pages

This is the third installment in the Whispering Pines Mystery series.  Since I wasn’t posting reviews when I started the series, let me catch you up on what’s been happening.

The series is set in the Northwoods village of Whispering Pines, Wisconsin, which is mostly inhabited by Wiccans, circus performers, and others who “don’t fit into society.”  Jayne O’Shea is a former Madison, Wisconsin police officer who arrives in Whispering Pines to prepare her grandmother’s house for sale after her death.  Almost immediately after Jayne arrives, she finds a body on her property and the mystery begins.  

While investigating the murder, she runs afoul of the local sheriff and we meet the denizens of Whispering Pines.  The town is filled to the brim with people I’d love to be friends with, from Tripp, the love interest who wants to stay Whispering Pines but he’s too “normal,” to Morgan, the new best friend and best green witch in Wisconsin, to Meeka, Jayne’s West Highland White Terrier/police dog.  The cast of characters is large but not difficult to keep track of and the author has created a fictional town that I kind of wish was real and I could visit.  (Honestly, it reminds me a lot of Lily Dale in Western New York.)  I can see the grandmother’s house on the lake, the town, the circus, and each individual shop.  I’m seriously envious of Morgan’s store, I’m rooting for Jayne, and I really hope she finally nails Flavia for something.

Obviously, the backstory of nearly everyone in this village is that they are Wiccan and many of them have lived there for generations (although book two focused on the circus performers, including a gender fluid Ringmaster). It’s an interesting premise for a cozy mystery and one of the reasons I picked up the first book.  I will note that all of the Wiccans in this book are also witches (or fortune tellers), which might turn off some readers since the two don’t always go hand in hand, although as of book three, I’ve only been introduced to green and kitchen witches.  Personally, I’m waiting for an elemental witch to make an appearance and there’s hints that might be coming.  For the record, Jayne is still slightly skeptical but accepting of the Wiccan lifestyle/religion.

By Original Secrets, Jayne has decided to stay in Whispering Pines, has taken on the job of sheriff, and with Tripp’s help, is turning her grandmother’s home into a bed and breakfast (with the threat of having to sell it if it doesn’t turn a profit in a year).  The romance between her and Tripp is heating up and she’s discovered that her grandmother’s death was a homicide, not an accidental death as the police report states. And, of course, she’s solved three murders and dealt with an accidental death and a suicide.

I’ve already downloaded the fourth installment and while it hasn’t hit the top of my to-be-read list, I’m thoroughly enjoying the series.  The author has a solid grip on the large cast of characters (new ones are introduced in each book and I’d love to see the intricate relationship tree that was probably necessary to keep them all straight.)  Three books in and new backstories are developing naturally that add in great plot twists to keep things fresh.  My only question is, in a town this small that caters to tourists, how many deaths can occur over the summer before Jayne is suspected of bringing bad luck to town?  

The character of Jayne, as well as the feel of the books, reminds me a lot of Kinsey Millhone in Sue Grafton’s “alphabet” mystery series.  So if you’re a Sue Grafton fan, I strongly recommend adding this series to your list of books to read.

I gave the first book four stars, but books two and three have sat solidly at 3.5 stars.

Until next time, thanks for visiting.

My rating system:

5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.

4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.

3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.

2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.


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