In Annette Blair's excellent mystery novel A Veiled Deception, Madeira Cutler, an assistant to a fashion designer, returns to her New England home town to help organize her sister's wedding. When an obnoxious wedding guest is murdered, Madeira must solve the murder while dealing with burgeoning psychic powers and conversations with ghosts.
This is the start of The Vintage Magic mystery series, and like Blair's previous novels such as Gone With the Witch and The Kitchen Witch, it combines elements of the mystery and supernatural genres and does so both rather effectively. The supernatural aspects play out well, particularly in that Madeira is experiencing them for the first time.
Madeira touches a wedding gown and sees images of the previous owner. She is terrified but soon begins to accept what these images might bring for her, especially when a family friend begins to teach her to embrace her abilities and her Wicca faith.
Some of the more intriguing scenes feature Madeira talking to ghosts - particularly Dante, a smooth-talking spirit who resembles Cary Grant. Madeira and Dante's
communications are witty and some of the highlights of the book.
Besides its many supernatural elements, A Veiled Deception does a good job playing off the mystery conventions, particularly with the lead character.
Madeira is multi-faceted, equal parts innocent and cynical. Working for a fashion designer, she betrays a vain, materialistic side. In her first-person narration, Madeira describes various clothes and has a keen eye for details of fashion, particularly of the vintage variety. In one scene, she uses her newfound psychic abilities and her knowledge of fashion to discern one of the suspects' motives.
One of the more endearing character traits is her unusual turns of phrase. She utters cute (sometimes irritating) curses like "Holy Hermes" - as in scarf - or "Mother of Cashmere."
Leavening her materialistic side, Madeira is infused with a lot of warmth. After her mother's death, she takes a maternal approach to her younger sisters, particularly Sherry, the one who’s getting married. Though she finds her sister's future in-laws snobbish, the reader can clearly see that she wants her sister to be happy.
The plot takes many unusual twists and turns that lead to a satisfying end. Because of the small number of suspects, the killer's identity is somewhat easy to deduce. However, what is done after the killer is identified, and the denouement of one of the other character’s story arc, is perfect justice.
A Veiled Deception not only makes a good start to a new series but is a great example of the supernatural mystery genre.