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The Star: A Tarot Card Mystery (Tarot Card Mystery S.) Hardcover – Bargain Price, February 6, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Warren Ritter, ex-'60s radical and sidewalk tarot-card reader in Berkeley, Calif., works to clear his daughter's name in Skibbins's inconsistent if entertaining third mystery (after 2006's High Priestess). Believed killed in an explosion in 1970, Ritter has only recently resurfaced from a life on the run and learned of the existence of his daughter, Fran Wilkins. Now, Fran turns to her long-lost dad for help when her abusive husband, Orrin, a Santa Cruz policeman, declares her unfit because she suffers from bipolar disorder, and moves out with their five-month-old son. Fran steals her baby back from her husband's strict fundamentalist parents, but then lands in the hospital under police guard—rescued from attempted suicide and suspected of murdering her husband. In a dramatic conclusion, Ritter orchestrates a violent confrontation that reveals the true killer, but some details strain credulity and readers hoping for more tarot tips might be disappointed. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Warren Ritter--Eight of Swords (2005) High Priestess (2006)--is certainly not a typical detective. On the lam after participating in radical politics and coping with bipolar disorder, he ekes out a living reading tarot cards on Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue. When a daughter, Fran, whose existence was unknown to him, asks for help, he cannot refuse. Fran is separated from her husband, Orrin, a police officer who has taken their five-month-old son. Fran would like to get her child back, but Orrin will declare her an unsuitable parent if she tries. When Orrin turns up dead, Fran is the logical suspect, and Warren must rise to the occasion. With the help of his unconventional group of friends, which includes a former Black Panther, a biker psychiatrist, and his disabled computer-expert girlfriend, the tarot detective turns all the right cards. Skibbins' third mystery combines lots of action, a scene-stealing supporting cast, a well-constructed plot, and liberal doses of Bay Area atmosphere at its most quirky. Barbara Bibel
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Skibbins’ books ooze local atmosphere and the characters are poignant and unforgettable, much like they are in rea life. In fact, he bases much of his characters on actual personas, which I can testify to because I remember the folks he’s referring to from when I was last living in Berkeley! Because the setting of Berkeley is so pronounced throughout the series, it is a bona fide character in its own right. That meant reading one of his books was like reading ten of someone else’s set in Berkeley, once again simplifying my homework immensely. If Skibbins was just a great boon to local area research, I’d have been happy to walk away with that. But as it turns out, his series is a delight to read. To date I’ve read all of the books in his Tarot Card mystery series, and have been eagerly awaiting more. My biggest complaint is his books are such short, breezy reads that they are over far too quickly. And that is one thing that will definitely distinguish my Renaissance 2.0 series, as those books are far bigger, and you will need to slow down and concentrate more to take them in, as there’s quite a lot going on. I envy writers who you can read even at the burnt out end of your days when you can barely concentrate and summon enough mind power to remember your own name. So to say he’s easily accessible is an understatement.
I’m not sure if these qualify as cozy mysteries or not, though they very well might; fans of that sub-genre will definitely feel at home here in any case. All the books are written with a fairly consistent quality, so chances are if you love this one, you’ll love them all. In Star, our hero, Warren Ritter, has to fight to clear his daughter’s name of a crime, so he’s got perhaps a little more skin in the game than with other installments. You might think that would reduce the amount of cheeky humor, but it doesn’t; the author’s sense of humor remains one of the defining points of this franchise. The fact that Warren is a manic depressive means this series falls into the “defective detective” subgenre, as politically incorrect as that is to say. It’s one of the many things that make Warren such a fun, and unforgettable character.
Easy to read amateur detective story, interesting main character, probably influenced by the author's alter-ego. The main protagonist, Warren Ritter, does Tarot readings on the side, doesn't believe in it as real, but then, just maybe once in a while. That is what drew me in, but his cast of characters are interesting, and the books are a lot of fun. Great diversion, and just a bit inspiring, as well. I'd like to meet the author.
Waiting for "The Tower", his next.
I really enjoy this series a lot--it's a shame there's only one more waiting. (Hopefully the series will continue, but the last one was published in 2008, so we shall see. The author writes very knowledgeably about mental health issues and the treatment/medical system, his characters are engaging, and the mysteries interesting. This one I had sort of figured out, though not the logistics of it til the end. Anyway, another enjoyable entry in the series!