In a Witch’s Wardrobe is the fourth mystery featuring vintage clothier, “natural” witch, and compulsively snoopy sleuth Lily Ivory. The book begins with the Art Deco Ball, an event that has been looming on Lily’s social calendar since the first book in the series. Lily attends the event with Aidan Rhodes the mysterious witch who is seemingly looped into all of the paranormal activity in the Bay Area. Her previous suitor, Max, has pretty much exited from Lily’s dance calendar, scared off by her witchy abilities. The Art Decco Ball takes place at the Paramount Theater, but for all of the build-up from prior books the setting merely serves as the launching point for the current mystery when Lily meets a woman named Miriam who behaves strangely, and then later passes out in a restroom. Lily calls 911, and having forgotten her clutch in the excitement, returns to the restroom only to discover that Miriam’s soul is trapped in the restroom’s mirror.
A rare as Wiccan characters are in literature, those from Feri Tradition are even rarer, but the mystery of what happened to Miriam and another woman Tarragon Dark Moon who had died a couple of days earlier involves a strange off-shoot of Feri Trad called the Unspoken coven (which is even stranger than my stange off-shoot of Feri Trad, the Third Road). Blackwell does present Feri Trad fairly accurately in general:
The Feri tradition is very different from Wicca, though, like us, there are probably as many different ways of worshipping as there are members. None of us are into hierarchical structures or edicts from above. But as far as I understand it, Feri is more an ecstatic tradition than a fertility group.”
The Unspoken coven is part of Feri Trad within the context of the novel (and who knows, perhaps the member of the coven do know the Names or, at least, one set of the Names), but it would be hard for me to imagine a Feri coven that would strictly segregate itself into a women’s coven and a parallel men’s coven. (I refuse to hear the Names, and so I’m no expert. Let me know if you’ve heard of a structure like this in Feri Trad.)
Such expert quibbles aside, Blackwell does accurately portray the kinds of people you find in and around Feri Trad in the Bay Area, and Lily’s quest to free Miriam’s soul from the mirror and solve the mystery of who killed Tarragon takes her to familiar haunts in the area. For instance, at one point Lily learns that the men’s adjunct is having a drumming circle at night up at the maze at the bottom of the old gravel quarry up my hill at Sibley. Complicating matters, there is apparently a conservative Christian group which is vandalizing various local occult shops. And Lily has to sort it all out while feeling like she is an outsider to all such groups.
Lily does get one beautiful, unexpected romantic interlude in the midst of the whole adventure. However, the two surprised lovers may have been influenced by a love-spell meant to distract them from the chase, and Lily’s love life is left in even more of a shambles by the time everything is said and done. All her love interests seem to abandon her entirely abruptly, and I can imagine (and hope) that the healing of her love life will be a focus of future books in the series.
The tone of the series is, perhaps, a bit darker in this novel than prior books in the series. Nevertheless, the series remains a fun entry in the witchy mystery genre and bit more savvy and cognizant of modern Paganism than most. I’m looking forward more books about Lily, and look forward to her continued reintegration into life and love.