Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dead is Just a Rumor by Marlene Perez

Daisy Giordano and her family finally have their father back, after he'd been imprisoned by the Anti-Supernatural Society known as the Scourge. And she's happy to have him back. Kind of. The truth is, he's been missing for six years, and for some reason, he still thinks of Daisy as if she's still twelve years old. He watches over her, and worries about her. Daisy finds it heartwarming, but restricting, and worse, her Dad seems strange around Ryan- almost as if he disapproves.

It's been causing Daisy to pull away from her father a little, and to throw herself into her other activities at school, like when her friend Samantha ropes her into helping with the decorations for the Halloween Dance celebrating the town's 200th birthday, which is taking place at the local Rich Lady, Mrs. Wilder's, House. And she finds out that the contest she entered with the Grand Prize of a trip for two to the Bahamas, that she hoped to take with Ryan, has instead netted her second prize- Cooking Lessons from Circe Silvertongue, a famous celebrity chef, who just happens to be from Nightshade herself, and is returning to town to work on a new cookbook.

Shortly afterwards, Circe comes to town, and Daisy discovers that while Ms, Silvertongue might be beautiful and a wonderful chef, she is also extremely demanding and something of a bitch. And just before her arrival, envelopes sealed with Red Sealing Wax have been showing up in town, and no one who has received one wants to talk about them or the messages within.

Also new to school is a new guidance counselor, Mrs. Tray, who is enthusiastic about Ryan's abilities and is pushing him to attend a college far away from Nightshade. Daisy feels hurt by that, since she wants to stay with Ryan, and stay close to her family in Nightshade. Mrs. Tray's enthusiasm doesn't extend to Daisy however, and Daisy feels that the woman is as false as a three dollar bill. When she lies to Daisy's father at the Halloween Dance, however, Daisy crosses over from her uneasiness at the woman and into actual dislike.

She also has a chance to work with Circe, who has a pet pig named Balthazar she keeps with her. What Daisy finds strange is that Circe uses some kind of strange powder in her dishes, the ones the serves to Balthazar and to some others. The dance brings up another mystery- Daisy chooses a beautiful blue and cream dress from Mrs. Wilder's closets to wear to the Ball, and while it looks amazing on her, Mrs. Wilder sees her and asks where she has been, calling her "Lily". Though Daisy quickly lets Mrs. Wilder know who she is, she wonders why the old woman would say such a thing.

It turns out that Lily was Mrs. Wilder's sister, and that she disappeared at a similar ball many years ago, along with the man that she loved, her boyfriend, Bam. No one knew what happened to her, and neither of them were ever found. Daisy decides to try and find out what happened to them for Mrs. Wilder, who seems especially saddened about Lily's disappearance. Mrs. Wilder's daughter doesn't want Daisy poking her nose in, but then decides she can, just as long as she doesn't tell Mrs. Wilder. The daughter doesn't want her mother to get her hopes up, then have them dashed if Daisy can't unravel the mystery.

Back at Slim's diner, Daisy continues to work, but Circe seems to have a feud on with Slim and Flo. And Lil, the intelligent jukebox, seems to have a special dislike for Circe, playing songs like "Bad Magic Woman" whenever she comes into the diner. Daisy knows that Lil is trying to tell her something, but what? And why would Circe be so insistent on buying the jukebox from Slim's? Does she have anything to do with the money troubles the diner is having that might force him to sell Lil just to save his business?

Finally, the secret of the letters is revealed. They are blackmail letters, and someone seems to know that the people in town are supernatural creatures. Most of them, anyway. The question is, who is sending them, and what do they really want? And can Daisy and Penny become friends again when someone is making Penny think Daisy is bad-mouthing her? Can Daisy and her friends come together to save the town from a blackmailer, and find out what really happened to Lily and Bam? Can there even be a happy ending for Daisy and her Dad's overprotectiveness towards her?

I love this series, and every time I see a new book out, I just have to pick it up, to see what new problem bedevils Daisy, her family, and her friends, not to mention the citizens of the town of Nightshade. In this volume, there is the mystery of what happened to Mrs. Wilder's sister and her beau, the identity of the blackmailer, and Daisy's new relationship with Circe Silvertongue. Of course, I suspected a great deal of what happens with Circe, because I really love Greek myths and stories, and anyone who has read them can figure out a great deal of Circe's story just by being familliar with her name.

I suspected Circe of being the blackmailer, considering her last name is basically given to someone who is a liar, or just on this side of the truth. Persuasive, certainly. But "Silvertongue" seems to have more of a negative connotation than that. We also get to see and find out more about the town, meet another good witch, and find out that Penny is dabbling in magic herself with gossip written on the walls of the girl's bathroom that changes and makes nasty comments about Daisy. But are Penny and Daisy really on the outs?

Reading this book is a lot like watching a soap opera, or reading one of those gossipy novels about celebrities. But this soap opera has more in common with "Dark Shadows" than "General Hospital" or "Days of Our Lives". The supernatural is just about everywhere in Nightshade, but it's played more straight than scary. Supernatural creatures are people, too, it seems, even Mort Bone, the mayor, who just so happens to also be some sort of living skeleton guy in diguise. Every one of the supernatural townsfolk mines some sort of supernatural trope, from Slim, who really is an invisible man, to werewolves, mermaids, witches and more.

This series is fun to read. The stories are pretty straightforward, for mysteries, and there isn't any filler in sight. Daisy is a wonderful heroine, not gloomy or overly cheerful, and not perfect, either. Reading a new "Dead is" book is like reconnecting with an old friend and hearing how they have been doing since then. Excellent and fun to read. Highly recommended.

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