Lately, I’ve been reading some fabulous books from Rosie’s Book Review Team, and thinking about them in terms of Christopher Booker’s metaplot theory. Using Little Red Riding Hood as a metaplot here, I considered what Red’s story might look like as a thriller.
- If everything happens too fast for you to keep up with clues but there’s blood everywhere and probably several explosions and chase scenes and Red has a knife to her throat at least once, it’s a thriller.
- If the knife turns out to actually be teeth, and the teeth turn out to belong to Red’s boyfriend Wolf during the full moon, while granny is technically dead and slightly transparent, it’s a paranormal chick lit thriller.
If Red’s goodies are cupcakes from her own little red bakery, and her special posse includes Joe (her gay bestie who picks out all her clothes including her signature hooded cape), boyfriend Wolf (hunkalicious Chief of Police who keeps telling Red not to get involved even as he obligingly runs background checks on all her suspects), and Granny (who is, technically, dead. Lots.) it’s a cozy paranormal thriller. Although of course any actual sex, swearing, blood and/or gore will occur offstage, there will be the occasional knitting, probably cupcakes, and almost definitely cats.
For a fantastic example of a cozy paranormal thriller, check out the upcoming release, Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern [review below].
Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree: (A Madam Tulip mystery – Book 4) by David Ahern
Actress Derry O’Donnell, moonlighting as fortune-teller Madam Tulip, finds herself in a famous pop singer’s entourage. But at the star’s glittering birthday party in the Dublin mountains, Derry finds a band riven by rivalries and feuds. Behind the trouble is a mysterious Russian guru, a shaman hated by everyone but the singer whose life she dominates.
When the shaman mysteriously disappears, suspicion threatens to tear the band apart. Was she victim or poisoner? Guilty or innocent? Dead or alive?
Two brilliant and beautiful musicians; an ambitious band manager with a shady past; a sax player entranced by Vikings–each has a secret to share and a request for Madam Tulip.
She’s baaaack! I can’t binge on the absolutely bingeworthy Madam Tulip series because I obsessively grab each new book the second I can get my hands on it. Then I make a bowl of popcorn, pour my annual Guinness, and head back to Ireland with some of my favorite fiction friends. As I said in my review of Book 3, they include the (attractive of course) young actress, Derry O’Donnell—permanently broke and scratching for the next job in the Dublin theater scene, consistently dating the wrong flavor-of-the-week, while waiting for The Big Break—and her alter ego Madam Tulip, celebrity psychic and fortune-teller. (*That’s Madam without an “e”, because she’s not married to Monsieur Tulip.)
Derry’s supporting cast includes her mother Vanessa—successful American art gallery owner, artist’s agent, and force of nature. Vanessa is divorced from (but still agent to) Derry’s father, Jacko—famous Irish artist whose painting skills are second only to his ability to gamble (and lose) money. Then there are Derry’s acting friends, Bella (black, Belfast-born actress with catch-phrase ‘Say No to Negativity!’), and Bruce (gay ex-Navy Seal, actor, computer expert, and total eye-candy). [note: and in case you didn’t get the gay part, his remarkably prescient parents did, in fact, name him “Bruce”.]
In the team’s latest adventure, Derry is (as usual) caught between her ever-competing parents as her father Jacko prepares his tell-all, career-destroying autobiography while her mother Vanessa bemoans the inevitable loss of his career (and, of course, all those lovely commissions).
But Derry has bigger problems. Her uncomfortable relationship with alter ego Madam Tulip doesn’t stand a chance against her even more troubled bank balance when she accepts a gig as member of a rock star’s entourage. As usual, Madam Tulip has barely started telling her first fortune when murder attempts and accusations begin to pile up.
Derry wondered if the source of her inspiration wasn’t her years spent in Ireland, where believing anybody’s motives are anything but self-serving, dishonest, and probably criminal was universally viewed as the sign of a half-wit.
But two things are different this time. First, this is a darker adventure in every way. Events are already set in motion, but Madam Tulip’s very real gift is quick to shed light on a cauldron of seething motives. And second, unlike the past events where Derry was always aware that Madam Tulip was just another character she’s playing as an actor, this time she finds the character taking over. ‘This time, Madam Tulip felt more real than I did. As if she were acting me, like she was the one truly alive. Am I crazy?’
Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree has all the pieces I’ve loved so far. Derry and her friends’ backstory and characters continue to become more complex and rounded. Her parents continue to provide comic relief. The affectionate yet honest descriptions of Dublin and surrounding countryside are beautifully written.
New characters are introduced with author David Ahern’s usual brilliant descriptions, such as Pat Kelly, band manager and aspiring nightclub developer, “He was short and overweight, his pudgy face strongly tanned, like he spent long hours on a sunbed or had just returned from a winter vacation. His hair was black and curly, longer than fashionable. His clothes were youthful, obviously designer, though his socks were white and his shoes were black slip-ons, cheap-looking and too shiny. His shirt gaped over his belly, straining the buttons.” We probably know everything we need from just those white socks and too-shiny shoes.
As Derry has already discovered, interpreting Madam Tulip’s intuition isn’t an exact science. Take the serpent symbol, for example. Is it a warning, as it seems when Derry first sees a mysterious bracelet? Is it a symbol of the end of the world, as her Viking-loving new friend Nils tells her? Perhaps it’s part of the message from the tarot cards, or even an incomprehensible vision beckoning her to safety in her single moment of greatest danger? Derry never decides, and maybe we won’t know either.
For anyone who enjoys plenty of wisecracking banter, a cast of offbeat characters willing to risk their lives for each other—even if not in ways I could have predicted, as when Bruce brings Derry back from brink of hysteria by insisting she recite Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy—and a rollercoaster thriller plot, I can’t recommend this series enough.
And for you lucky ones who are not (yet) addicted, Madam Tulip predicts a treat in store for you: the first three books in her series are now available as a box set at special savings. What could you possibly be waiting for?