fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsurban fantasy book reviews Adrian Phoenix Black Dust MamboBlack Dust Mambo by Adrian Phoenix

Kallie Riviere, a hoodoo rootworker, attends an annual witches’ carnival looking for some fun. She thinks she’s found it in the form of sexy nomad Gage, but before they can do the deed, Kallie passes out in the bathroom while Gage goes to bed alone. In the morning, Kallie finds Gage murdered, the victim of a hex that was laid on Kallie’s bed.

Before long, she has Gage’s disturbingly attractive clan brother knocking on her door looking for answers, the Hecatean Alliance (the witch organization behind the carnival) wanting to take her into protective custody, and a sneaking suspicion that she, not Gage, was the intended victim. This leads her to a mystery centering on her powerful aunt, Gabrielle LaRue.

Unusually for an urban fantasy, Adrian Phoenix switches the point of view among a number of characters. This includes the murderer, so that character’s identity is not the real mystery here; the big questions are whether the good guys will find the culprit before someone else gets killed and how it all ties in with Gabrielle.

The characters are kind of over-the-top, “larger than life” figures. Everyone is gorgeous and some (such as “Bond babe” Felicity Fields) are homages to action-movie archetypes. And boy, are they ever amorous. Thinking about sex, bantering about sex… there’s very little actual sexual activity in Black Dust Mambo, but there’s a whole lot of fantasizing. The constant horniness gets a little obnoxious in places, but it’s made up for by the fact that the characters are also funny. Everybody wisecracks all the time and it’s a great deal of fun for the reader.

The plot is exciting and makes use of well-researched voodoo and hoodoo lore. Especially clever is what Phoenix does with Kallie and her true nature. It’s implied that she’s something more than human, but we’re not told what until much later. There’s a really subtle little clue planted early in the book. Blink and you’ll miss it. (I did. I spent most of the book thinking her supernatural secret was something completely different. The significance of the clue dawned on me in retrospect, several hours after finishing the book, and suddenly I was feverishly scrambling back through the pages to see if I’d remembered it correctly.)

Black Dust Mambo doesn’t make as much use of the New Orleans setting as one might expect. In fact, most of the book takes place in a hotel. Yet the atmosphere of New Orleans is still pervasive, and the ending implies that we’ll be seeing much more of the setting in future installments. I’ll definitely be “tuning in” for these. I really enjoyed Black Dust Mambo and I look forward to seeing what Adrian Phoenix, and Kallie Riviere, do next.

Kallie Riviere — (2010-2012) Publisher: “There will be times, girl, when all your magic ain’t going to be enough, times when it will seem to dry up like mud under the noonday sun, or even make matters worse… ” Kallie Rivière, a fiery Cajun hoodoo apprentice with a talent for trouble, finds herself smack-dab in the middle of one of those times her mentor warned her about when she visits New Orleans to attend the Hecatean Alliance’s annual carnival: her hard-bodied conjurer hookup ends up dead in her blood-drenched bed. And he was killed by something that Kallie would never dream of touching — the darkest of dark juju, soul-eating juju — a black dust hex that may have been meant to kill her. Now Kallie has to use every bit of hoodoo knowledge and bayou-bred mojo she possesses to clear her own name and find the killer — even as that dark sorcerer hunts Kallie and her friends. But Kallie’s search for the truth soon leads her in a direction she never anticipated — back home to Bayou Cyprés Noir, and to Gabrielle LaRue, Kallie’s aunt, protector, and hoodoo mentor… who is looking more and more like she just might be the one who wants Kallie dead.

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  • Kelly Lasiter

    KELLY LASITER, with us since July 2008, is a mild-mannered academic administrative assistant by day, but at night she rules over a private empire of tottering bookshelves. Kelly is most fond of fantasy set in a historical setting (a la Jo Graham) or in a setting that echoes a real historical period (a la George RR Martin and Jacqueline Carey). She also enjoys urban fantasy and its close cousin, paranormal romance, though she believes these subgenres’ recent burst in popularity has resulted in an excess of dreck. She is a sucker for pretty prose (she majored in English, after all) and mythological themes.