By Barbara Michaels.
Oh goodie, it's another book review of a book I didn't like too much! Thank the gods I had a birthday and got a few new ones to read that I might actually like here. I seem to be getting chatty in my "meh to not good" pile of reviews, and this book is no exception to the current trend.
This book is about an eeeeeevil quilt. I thought this idea was hilarious and had a lot of potential. Turns out that...no, it really doesn't. This is a book with a sloooow start and a slow middle, and frankly, after awhile I decided I'd just finish the review so I could justifiably make fun of it.
Rachel is this grad student studying folklore that hangs out at an antique fabric/costume-y shop a lot. The owners of it are Cheryl (the onsite manager who Rachel gets along with) and Kara (the politician's wife/roaming agent, who's got a fair amount of intimidating ego/'tude and Rachel doesn't like her too much). After Cheryl's cop husband Tony gets shot on the job, Cheryl needs some extra help, so Rachel goes to work for them. While running the store, some strange criminal kid comes in, gives her the creeps, runs off when Tony spots him...and drops off this filthy old quilt that intrigues the shop owners despite the mess. Except then things get weird. Like that kid's behavior. Or Rachel and Tony suddenly, briefly, feeling "in love" even though Tony is sooooo not the type to cheat. Cheryl and Tony bug off for the holidays early on, leaving Rachel alone with their weird family friend Adam to stay at the house and babysit her.
Adam is ...a strange duck. Like Darius in Not Quite A Lady, he's very Vulcan-like. He wears five sweaters because he just got back from Saudi Arabia, and he likes to pontificate about bloody well everything. For example, he recently got allowed to watch a Wiccan ritual, and he loves to go on about that. There's also Pat (another one who "knows a lot" about witchcraft, another pontificator) and his wife Ruth, who in the past (a previous book, I believe) dealt with a haunting/"overshadowing" in which they were possessed by unhappy spirits who were taking over their bodies and forcing them to do terrible things. So naturally they recognize it when Rachel starts having the same sort of symptoms. Which they eventually figure out was because Rachel had the quilt put over her at the wrong moment, and there must be something wrong with it. Thanks to a bad trip through the laundry, the quilt appears to be some kind of voodoo hate quilt.
This is making it sound better than it is (especially the part where I said "voodoo hate quilt"), and that it moves along faster than it does. For all of the yakking and conversation that goes in this book, not that much is happening and the action is slow. Rachel doesn't have much personality for being the center of a book, and she's a cipher. Cheryl and Tony have enough personality to be Nice People, but you don't get to know them well, and that's about it once they're off screen. Kara's 'tude makes her stand out more, but can also get on your nerves. Adam and Pat, well...they continually talk in Professor Mode because they are academics and know more than anyone else ever.
Adam's Professor Mode is mildly amusing in its own way, but when he randomly announces at one point that gee, he must be falling in love with Rachel because suddenly his caveman instincts have kicked in and he keeps wanting to protect her, you're like, "WHERE DID THIS COME FROM?!?!" Sure, they're talking because they're trapped together 24-7, but where's the love coming from? What chemistry is there? Is Adam just hitting his Pon Farr or "becoming accustomed to her face?" Has he just not seen any women in Saudi Arabia in a long time? I don't get it, other than he's the (Single, unlike Tony) Designated Love Interest and has to fall in love with Rachel. It is a giant "who the hell cares" fizzle of a relationship, and one can't help but think that Rachel caved in because the plot said to. Not because Adam is so bad, but because I've probably seen more sexual tension between a leaf and a roll of toilet paper than I did between these two.
And I'd like to point out that Pat and Adam make out like they are experts in witchcraft/Wiccans/etc. There are many pontificating quotes about what Wiccans are really like, dah dah dah. This is relevant since this book is about an eeeeeeevil quilt, and there's a couple in this book who have dealt with this haunting shit before. (And yet, Pat is still snottily skeptical at times, and you want to be all, "Uh, you of all people shouldn't be talking like that.") But clearly the author hasn't even done the research she seems to want to be showing off. I have researched this sort of thing, and had a friend who SUPER researched religion/paganism and gave a lot of lectures on it, and the author would be failing out of Wicca 101. She blows even the simplest of facts! For example, it's late December and Adam brags multiple times about having gone to an "Esbat," which he claims is one of the eight major Wiccan holidays. THOSE ARE SABBATS, YOU IDIOT! Esbats are the minor holidays, like moon rituals. Hell, even Rachel, who calls them "sabbaths" (also something else), is closer to it than Adam is. I realize the author wrote this book in the 90's and probably wasn't hitting the Internet for some fact checking, but I am darned sure she could have found out what term was what by reading a library book. Any library book.
Also, there's repeated use of the word "Wiccas" rather than "Wiccans," which is also easy to find out isn't correct. I also especially loved this helpful explanation from Adam on page 294: "Wicca is the name of the--the thing, the religion, whatever." Riiiight. I could go on, but I really don't want to reread this book again to dig up more examples. But for a book that could really use some accurate citings of what it's talking about, the author crapped it up to the point where I was rolling my eyes a lot. Since this is the same author who does those Egyptian mysteries with scholarly characters, I would have thought she was better at this sort of thing.
Anyhoo, once in a great while Rachel acts possessed for like a minute, but most of the time it's just these fairly boring people having conversations I'm not terribly interested in and fuck if I know what they are really doing to fix her problem. Or why anyone cares that much about her to act like a substitute family to protect her ass. Now admittedly I was so bored of this towards the end that it took all my doing just to keep reading/skimming through, but I'm still not sure what, if anything, Adam/Pat/etc. actually DID and if it helped anything. Rachel has one final moment of possession and...I guess magically got over it?
The detective work is confusing and shoddy, the haunting is weird, frequently nonsensical and hardly shown, the characters aren't done terribly well, and mostly I was just super bored.