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WesternSFA
The Last Grave A Witch Hunt Novel
by Debbie Viguie
Signet; $7.99, 354pp
Release Date: March 5, 2013
Samantha Ryan moved to San Francisco from Boston and joined the SFPD as a detective. She relocated to SF after a bad set of affairs in Salem , Mass. concerning a coven sacrificing young women.

She and her new partner Lance Garris have been called to an unusual homicide at the California Academy of Sciences in the Natural History Museum. A well-respected local historian has been found petrified into stone.

Not your average everyday murder, even in San Francisco .

What a surprise: this murder involves another malicious witch coven bent on messing with an ancient evil buried in the Santa Cruz Mountains in the appropriately named Hell Hole Cave .

Samantha gets involved in several very bizarre scenarios while tracking down the murderers and trying to protect the victim’s young daughter, a nascent witch. Samantha herself is a witch with very strong powers but they are powers she is hesitant to use and in some cases not sure how to use them.

But I really love her energy-made cat named Freaky who she creates out of thin air when she needs a cuddle.

Events around Samantha keep shifting. It starts with little things: her roommate’s hair has changed color overnight. She rents an unexceptional car after hers is toast in a confrontation with another witch and she goes out the next morning to discover when hitting the key fob that a Mustang answers the signal.

The changes in events escalate as well as her disturbing dreams; one of which has San Francisco hit by The Big One on a level worse than that of the 1906 earthquake.

And people and animals are leaving the city in droves. Something Big is definitely coming.

I read this book in one day. Viguie’s writing pulls the story along with nary a chance to suck in a breath. It’s dark and creepy in places and a bit horrifying. The author’s take on witches is interesting. They control energy and almost everyone we meet has a nasty agenda - except for one surprise reveal.

What didn’t work for me was the scene shifting. Samantha and the reader are constantly jolted out of the current plot line because the author pulls the rug out from under their feet. Time shifts. So suddenly that what was a blonde roommate is a purple-haired roommate or one who doesn’t recognize her. Or a dead person is now very much alive.

All this is necessary for the story but ultimately it left me confused and off-balance because the time shifts didn’t happen at regular intervals. So, as a reader, I invested my emotions in a scene and then Whoop! Sorry—scene shift---none of that was real. Neither Samantha nor the reader knows what’s concrete until the end. So I spent a lot of time being horrified or falling for a character or gripped by a tragedy to find out they didn’t exist. This wasn’t just unsettling: I felt a bit cheated by the manipulation.

But I will admit—still a compelling read. And this is just one in a series. And who’s in the Last Grave is an interesting twist leading to another book, no doubt.

However, a note to the author—I have to say when Samantha and her roommate go through an earthquake (a “shaker” and not a “roller” as the roommate explains) and then just go from cowering in doorways to continuing their discussion, I found that a little hard to swallow. Especially since Samantha had never experienced an earthquake. Usually if a quake is strong enough to make the building sway, it’s strong enough to fling things off shelves, etc. You normally go through the house and make a token effort to see nothing’s been broken and you straighten up/clean up what fell. ~~ Sue Martin

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