Today we present a brief review of The Madness of Mercury, the first book in the new Zodiac mystery series by Connie di Marco. I am just going to say straight out that we were doubtful that we would enjoy a mystery that is all wrapped up in astrology and “Mercury retrograde” and “lunar returns” and such stuff. So we were pleasantly surprised to find that this is a well-written and nicely plotted book that is not only for astrology buffs.
Julia Bonatti is an astrologer who’s used to dealing with what she calls the “mundane issues” of her clients’ lives: advising them on the timing of vacations, investments, relationship decisions. You know, the kind of thing you’d go to an astrologer for.
But then she goes to visit Evandra Gamble, an elderly woman whose niece, Dorothy, is Julia’s client. Evandra is convinced that Dorothy—who is caring for Evandra and her sister, Eunice—of trying to kill her. She must be confused, perhaps suffering from dementia, right? Neptune is affecting her Mercury, and…
I’m going to stop that thought right there, because I still don’t know what effect Neptune has on Mercury. All you need to know is that Julia sees some things in Evandra’s chart that make her think there could be real danger. The sudden death of the gardener adds an ominous note. But where could the danger, if there is any, be coming from?
All of this is in addition to Julia’s other problem: the cult members who’ve taken it upon themselves to rid San Francisco of sin, starting with the “witches” and such—meaning Julia and other astrologist types. Soon Julia and her cat, Wizard, are forced out of their apartment, and she’s losing clients due to the nutty people picketing the front of her building with signs that say things like “Burn the witch!”
But back to our main concern, the cat. Wizard is a large black fellow who enjoys snuggling with Julia and remains remarkably unfazed through the various moves he endures, but other than that, we don’t learn a lot about him. So if you pick up this book thinking it will be a “cat mystery,” you might be disappointed.
Honestly, we hoped for more cat in this book too, but we pretty much got over it because we enjoyed the story and the writing so much. Connie di Marco gives us a lot of just plain beautiful writing, with descriptions that make scenes and characters come alive. You don’t have to be into astrology to enjoy The Madness of Mercury; you only have to be the sort of person who enjoys a good story well told.