Thursday, July 5, 2007

"Witch Hunt" by Shirley Damsgaard

This is the fourth entry in Damsgaard's Ophelia Jensen series. It's not as good as the first three in terms of plot, but more than makes up for it in character development.

Ophelia is the librarian for the small town of Summerset, Iowa. She's also a psychic and comes from a long line of mountain women famous for their talents as "witches"; Ophelia's grandmother Abby not only knows some magic but is well-known for her abilities with plants and healing, and her great-aunt is a medium. Of course, Ophelia and Abby don't make a lot of noise about their "specialness" because most of the town folk wouldn't understand. In addition to her immediate biological family, Ophelia is foster-mother to Tink, a teenage girl she rescued in the third book, a girl who just happens to be a budding medium and is need of guidance by Ophelia & Abby.

Bikers have descended upon Summerset, and not the kind that are "weekend warriors". These are rough, nasty-looking guys with bad reputations to match. There are rumors of drugs, prostitution and extortion swirling around El Serpiente, the gang in question. They've parked themselves literally at the edge of town at a bar called The Viper's Nest. And they've got everyone in town pretty much walking on eggshells.

Then one of the gang is found dead at Ophelia's best friend's house. Darci is not only upset at the dead body in her guest bedroom, but also at the arrest of her cousin Becca for the murder. Darci is sure that Becca was drugged and that she's innocent of the crime, so she asks Ophelia to use her "sight" to investigate. Needless to say, this brings on all kinds of mayhem as Ophelia's "visions" are never straight-forward and to-the-point.

As I said in the beginning, this is a pleasant little read, but not the best of plots. I saw several of the red herrings for what they were, as well as figuring out one of the "bad guys" pretty early on. I had the mystery at Ophelia's house figured out about half-way through the book, too (it has to do with someone breaking in - maybe). But where the plot was weak, the characters were strong. Ophelia's growing relationship with Tink, her attempts to be a mother (and one not like her own), as well as the change in her relationship with her grandmother Abby, made the book for me. I also like the friendship between Ophelia and Darci, as it's a real friendship, not a convenient one for plot's sake.

If you haven't checked out the Ophelia Jensen series yet and you're looking for some light mystery-reading, these books are a good choice. Nothing too complicated, nothing that will give you nightmares, and great characters make these books very enjoyable to read.

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