Reviewed by Dan
This is a Series Review of The Wheel Mysteries (Books 1-4)
AUTHOR: Susan Laine
PUBLISHER: Dreamspinner Press
Today I’m bringing you a series review on The Wheel Mysteries (Books 1-4). When the fourth book came out recently and I discovered that I needed the background from the previous three books, I hesitated, but based on the blurbs and the promise of magic, I eagerly grabbed all four.
I’m going to have to be honest and tell you I was disappointed. There wasn’t any real magic. There was Wicca which I learned from reading the books and doing a Google search was created by a retired British Civil Servant in the 1950’s. I always thought it was some ancient witchcraft type thing. Based on the author’s notes, I believe she was trying to present Wicca to the masses, but if it was supposed to make me believe in it, the books fell far short. I found it pretty damn annoying after a while. There was also some Satan Worship, some vague references to Gods and Goddesses, some Tarot cards and some Radical Faeries.
The series really wasn’t for me. I was promised magic, but all I got was a bunch of Wiccan ceremonies, broom sweeping, vastly overdone repetitious card readings in book three, and a feeling of ‘meh’ when I finished each book.
I would only recommend these books if you are interested in Wicca. The characters are well enough developed, and the stories are ok…but overall, I was kind of bored, and that is being generous.
I expect the series will continue, because there were still some open items at the end of book four (i.e. the Cabal), but honestly, I won’t be reading anything further.
TITLE: Sparks & Drops
LENGTH: 170 Pages
RELEASE DATE: November 19, 2013
Magic is in the air when Gus Goodwin, a pagan shopkeeper and owner of the Four Corners’ occult shop, meets a Niall Valentine, a mysterious PI investigating the disappearance of a local witch named Joy. What starts out as harmless flirting and information gathering soon turns into a partnership, with both men determined to solve the case.
Then bodies begin to pile up. Someone is using fire and water to kill witches associated with Joy, and it is up to Niall and Gus to find out what’s going on. But when their friendship blossoms into something else, the unknown dangers looming ahead become even more frightening. If they can’t solve the murders soon, they’re going to get themselves killed.
In this first book in the series, we meet Gus Goodwin, a twenty-six year old shopkeeper in Tacoma, Washington. Gus owns a shop dedicated to Wiccan supplies and materials and is a practicing Wiccan himself.
One day a hot, kind of scruffy guy shows up in the shop and spends a lot of time looking around at everything. Then he strikes up a conversation with Gus. It turns out that the man, Valentine, is a private investigator hired by a missing girl’s mother to find her. The only clue they had was a naked photo of the missing woman holding a knife used in Wiccan rituals. Ergo, the visit to Gus’ shop.
Gus is pulled in to the investigation and he and Valentine, who it turns out is actually Niall Valentine, are off on a mystery.
I enjoyed the book. It was a fast read and kind of predictable. I got a little bogged down in the some of the Wiccan terminology and rituals, although I understand completely why the author included them, and they were a huge part of the story. Maybe too huge a part in my opinion. I would rate this one at our “Liked It/Above Average” rating.
TITLE: Devil’s Own
LENGTH: 192 Pages
RELEASE DATE: July 2, 2014
A month and a half into their relationship, PI Niall Valentine and his occult shopkeeper boyfriend, Gus Goodwin, are hoping for a little time alone, but they’re thrown into another murder mystery.
Niall’s client, Angelina Talbot, is certain her new husband attempted to kill her, ambushing her in their bedroom, half-naked and covered in blood. Scared out of her mind, Angelina hit him with a lamp and ran away. Florian Talbot lies dead in the bedroom, his head smashed in with a lamp—but the door is locked from the inside. Is Angelina truly an unwitting murderer, or are more sinister forces at play?
With a family of eccentrics, borderline criminals, and Satanists, the real killer could be any number of people wandering the mansion that night under the cover of darkness. The entire Talbot clan thrives in secrecy. Still unfulfilled and utterly perplexed, Niall and Gus are tasked with shedding some much-needed light on the shadowy case.
In this second installment in the series, we’re back with Niall and Gus, who think life is going to settle down a little bit after their adventures in the first book. Well, they’re wrong. Niall has a new client named Angelina Talbot who will ensure that doesn’t happen.
Angelina comes to Niall with a story that intrigues him. A wealthy socialite, Angelina has recently married a man named Florian Talbot. He was charming and debonair, and he turned Angelina’s head. But once they were married, strange things happened. Florian wasn’t the loving man she expected. When Florian appeared at their bedside covered in blood and half naked with a bloody knife, looking like he was going to kill her, Angelina had finally had enough. She hit him over the head with a lamp and ran screaming from the mansion in only her underwear. On the way out she saw Florian’s bizarre family engaged in odd behaviors or just standing there looking at her run.
Now she has come to Niall for help. She called the police when she ran, accusing her husband of nefarious deeds, but when the police showed up, Florian answered the door completely clothed and there was no sign of any blood, or even the broken lamp Angelina said she hit him with. But now Florian has been found dead, that same night, his skull crushed by a lamp. And he is in their bedroom with a locked door. Something doesn’t add up.
Niall accepts the case, but there might be more to it than he knows. It turns out Wiccans aren’t the only magic users in the area. Florian and his family are Satanists. What have Niall and Gus gotten into this time?
This was a good read. If you’re into a mystery with Wiccans and Satan worshipers it might be for you. I would call this one at 3.0 “It Was Good / Average”
TITLE: Fireworks & Wildcards
LENGTH: 210 Pages
RELEASE DATE: June 1, 2015
When Gus Goodwin’s friend and mentor, Juliette Hayes, asks him to find out who’s stealing small sums from the cashbox of her Moonlight Haven Coven, Gus agrees. What’s the worst that could happen? They catch a small-time thief and, with any luck, retrieve a few bucks. Gus enlists the help of his boyfriend, PI Niall Valentine, and Niall’s retired police officer father, Owain, to go undercover and solve the mystery.
On the night of the next full moon ritual, however, the coven is struck with a fatal blow.
Now Gus and Niall face more than a murder mystery. The coven is torn apart, and along comes an eccentric psychic and Tarot master—plus a familiar face both Gus and Niall had hoped was long gone. As fireworks ignite and wild cards are spread, Gus and Niall have their work cut out for them.
This was one of those books that if I didn’t accept the entire series for review, I probably would have quit in the middle, and I’ll explain why.
In Fireworks & Wildcards, we’re back with our heroes, Gus and Niall, and off on another adventure/mystery. Someone has stolen some money from petty cash. Just over $300 and only the members of Juliette’s coven knew about the petty cash, so it has to be an inside deal. So she asks Gus and Niall to look into it.
At one of their Wiccan rituals shortly thereafter there is an explosion and the lives of the coven members are affected significantly. I’ll be honest, I was quite surprised to lose someone we had just met in detail, but I can see how it worked with the story. But our heroes are left wondering who set off the bomb, and does it have anything to do with the missing cash?
Now as to why I truly didn’t enjoy this one. The damn tarot card stuff. There was a section of ‘readings’ that went on and on and on and on and on. I could not care less about what each of the individual cards meant or how they all came together to describe the total. And then when it turned out all the ‘readings’ were fake? I was disgusted with it. It was boring and I didn’t enjoy it. Oh, and how stupid were the characters that no one ‘noticed’ the person who did that thing with the water pitcher in the hospital room with Jason. Duh.
I would call this one at our “It Was OK” rating. If you’re into tarot cards and ‘readings’ you would probably enjoy it far more than I did.
TITLE: The Disciple
LENGTH: 203 Pages
RELEASE DATE: October 21, 2016
Gus Goodwin witnesses a young man acting strangely at his occult shop—and a day later the same youth is found brutally murdered at a secluded Radical Faerie sanctuary in the mountains. Gus and his private detective boyfriend, Niall Valentine, once again find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery.
First to cross their path is Professor Alex Kittridge, Gus’s ex-boyfriend. Then into the picture stumbles Autumnsong, the biggest enigma they’ve ever encountered, to complicate the already confusing case. As Gus and Niall try to decipher the meaning of the cryptic poems left at the murder scenes, their pasts not yet laid to rest put a strain on their relationship.
Gus and Niall must uncover a slew of secrets within a spiritual group of queer social rebels before the vile killer strikes again—or the investigation could very well end up being their last.
Here we are again with Gus and Niall and their continuing mysteries set in Tacoma and Seattle. This time we also have a whole slew of Radical Faeries and as expected a murder mystery or two.
Gus is working in his shop, Niall is still a PI, they are cohabitating and since the end of book three they are also engaged. Their relationship is going great, but what will happen when exes of both of them show up at the same time? I thought that Niall’s ex was downplayed in the story. I would have liked to see more of him. Gus’ ex was front and center because of the storyline.
I think this one was close to being the the best written of the four books in the series so far, but it was a toss-up between book one and this current one. It kept me entertained, like the first book in the series did. Did it leave me with the feeling that I needed more? Not so much. It was a fairly fast read, and had a lot going on, but the drawing out of the continuing Autumnsong mystery and the Cabal just isn’t working for me. I’m calling this one as Liked It/Above Average because I did like it, I just didn’t love it.