Kindling The Moon by Jenn Bennett
Sometimes you wish your parents would just stay dead.
This is book 1 in the ‘Arcadia Bell’ esoteric urban fantasy series. Arcadia Bell is a bark keep/magician living an incognito life. She is really Selene Duval, daughter of two infamous occultists and fugitive alleged serial killers. Now people want her parents found, the deadline is literally that, so Arcadia goes on a quest involving an elusive demon, a mysterious murder weapon, a demon lover who practises sex magic, the Hellfire Club and a bounty hunter. This was good, a sparkling tale of magic, baser instincts, entrapment and secrets. It is a shame that the ‘love interest’ is such an old-fashioned dreary unreconstructed caveman.
“It smells like a brothel back here,”
“I knew Arcadia Bell couldn’t have been your real name.”
“We looked like homeless people who had stumbled across evening wear in a trash bin.”
“You loved me - I know you did. Why did you stop?”
“Horrible, repugnant smiles.”
“Why the hell had my parents drawn down from the Aethyr when they conceived me? Did they even know?”
Who Killed Peggy Sue?
#1: Dying To Win created by Eileen Goudge
One Will Win, One Will Die
This 1991 four part series is set in the small class and race obsessed town of Paradiso. It is the sort of town where the Peach Blossom Festival is the biggest event of the year and the Peach Blossom Queen gets a college scholarship and a Hollywood screen test. The four nominees are: Lacey Pinkerton, the rich racist mean girl who drives a Ferrari and gets Madonna tickets but is regularly beaten by her alcoholic father. Raven Cruz: a poor girl determined to protect the scrublands from having a mall built on them. Kiki DeSantis, Lacey’s BFF/minion who at last is rebelling against the toxic Lacey. April Lovewell, the preacher’s kid who is pregnant by the brooding poor Spike and scared.
Paradiso has one radio station, April’s cousin Hope is seemingly the only person at school with a personal computer (a Commodore) and there is only one industry - the Pinkerton cannery. Various suspects, red herrings and motives are set up as are various ugly secrets in this small town with a ‘Twin Peaks’ vibe. One of four is voted Peace Blossom Queen and then she is murdered. But why and by who? This was very good.
“We had just seventy-seven cents to our name and that’s only because I checked under the couch cushions before Calvin Pinkerton’s thug kicked us out.”
“Lacey had a feeling that maybe a girl who sewed her own clothes shouldn’t be trusted.”
“Doug didn’t know about the attempted barbecue-fork matricide either.”
“She’d promise him a couple of hours in the backseat of a car in the scrublands.”
“Art is false worship,”
“Lacey Pinkerton, in one way or another, was doomed.”
“Reigning mistress of the Paradiso social scene, such as it was.”
“Lacey had dome up to her on the playground and said, “Get off that swing right now. My father bought it for the school, and I want it.””
Who Killed Peggy Sue?
#2: Cross My Heart, Hope To Die created by Eileen Goudge
April Lovewell was voted Queen and now she is dead. April’s awful poisonous parents exploit her death. Raven wears blue suede ankle boots to the funeral. Lacey wants the Queen vote rerun as she wants the Hollywood screen test as she wants to be a singer. She never sings once, she just has alcoholic parents. The police investigation is inept and almost non-existent. Paranoia is predominant but the revelation of the killer’s identity in Book 4 does create inconsistencies upon rereading.
The Peach Blossom Festival is still a sideshow, there is no CSI and the pejorative Lacey is inculcated with a quasi-Electra complex. Paradiso is a harsh and unforgiving place where many just humbly submit in perpetuity. The malicious Lacey feels elevated with her own air of respectability but like everyone else in Paradiso, she is guilty of stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power. Nobody has the concept of free will or individual responsibility and nobody is castigated for their absurdities, vanity, carelessness, self indulgence and undignified refusal to grow up. Lacey will soon graduate High School and her power, dominance and options will be limited and on some level she knows this and is terrified by it.
The reporter Willa Flicker is all egotism and no regret, Kiki wears lavender high tops, a teacher is creepy, Hope is stupid despite being accepted at MIT, Raven is not as transgresive as she thinks as she campaigns for social justice and there is no lamenting for April. Menace shrouds Paradiso as all power resides in the hands of Lacey’s appalling father Cal and his moral blindness. There is more brutalism in the Pinkerton demesne, various characters are lost and bored, the killer is obvious and Lacey shows abject deference to her abuser.
Vaughn and Jess, two indistinguishable dudes romance Raven and Hope. April’s parents have excessive grief. Lacey has contempt for the common good and Cal is not a misunderstood pillock. There is mention of an electronic bulletin board and interterminal communication. This was okay but had silly ‘cliff-hangers’.
“Spike - a motorcycle-riding auto-shop student who lived in a trailer way beyond the wrong side of town.”
“One of us might be the next one to fall out of a locker,”
“Can you imagine having to be the one to clean that thing out?”
“Can you imagine what kind of sicko stuffed her in there in the first place?”
“Mrs Pinkerton was done up in some thing that poufed in the middle and made her look like a tulip.”
“It wasn’t the first time Daddy had thrown his whiskey bottle against the fireplace.”
“You guys don’t want to have a mall like the rest of America? Is Raven teaching you how wonderful it is to be deprived?”
“Vaughn, remember who your father is? I’m surprised he even lets you into the house.”
“Why else would that man take my daughter to a deserted place at Sunrise?”
“To draw it?”