THE BROTHERHOOD
T.L. Schaefer

 


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Atlantic Bridge Publishing, 2004
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood
 
Mystery
 
Eli Miller submits himself for disciplining by his fellows of The Brotherhood, and finds he is being beaten to death. He has been betrayed by the man he trusted most.
 
Josie Galloway, Wiccan High Priestess in Eli’s home town, experiences all of this with him. Trapped in the afterlife, Eli is sending his experience to her so strongly that Josie is unable to protect herself. She dreams the same horrible dream night after night but is unable to remember the dream when she wakes up. All of Josie’s friends can see from her face what a horrible toll it is taking on her.
 
Doug Brewster, the new Sheriff of Mariposa, is not a happy man. His good friend Josie has the same medallion-shaped bruise on her chest that Eli Miller’s corpse does. She says it appeared the night she had the first bad dream, but Doug trusts his instincts about Josie so little that he thinks he must consider her a suspect. In his by-the-book investigation, he discovers even more mysteries about her, and in doing so makes her a target for murder.
 
The Brotherhood is led by the charismatic Reverend Chuck, who has placed himself at the head of the long-extant Brotherhood of Mariposa. Using a combination of fundamentalist Christianity and small town bigotry, he leads an efficient survivalist army. Where, Sheriff Brewster asks himself, is the least likely place to hide a witch when a vengeful out-of-town killer comes after her? Among The Brotherhood, of course. The result of his decision is that a den of snakes can no longer be concealed.
 
Author T.L. Schaefer has not confined herself to writing a tight mystery about the small town life with which she is so familiar. The psychology of her characters is crucial. In THE BROTHERHOOD, one of the things brought to the fore is the bigotry lingering on the fringes of any isolated small town. This is still background, however, to the personal conflicts of Josie and Doug. Years ago Josie fled to Mariposa hoping to hide for the rest of her life. Doug, too, has such a stain from his childhood in Mariposa that one wonders he ever came back to face it, much less be elected Sheriff. As Josie and Doug are forced to accept their feelings for each other, the driving forces in their lives are gradually revealed. Other characters, too, puzzle us until they are exposed.
 
Surrounded by all these interesting mysteries, how could any reader resist? The lives of Sheriff Ashton and Arden Jones were too neatly wrapped up in THE SUMMERLAND to base another interesting psychological novel on them, so we welcome the appealing Josie Galloway, also met in THE SUMMERLAND, to center stage. If you are willing to connect with Josie, a genuine “white witch,” as your protagonist, you will be in THE BROTHERHOOD for the duration. I did have two small niggling complaints. Surely Josie, with her powers, would have more confidence in her ability to protect herself? And why is there one important person who remains forever shadowy and unexplained? That one person is a loose end waiting for another book. Whether it is written or not depends on Schaefer.
 
Last year I reviewed THE SUMMERLAND, also a mystery set in Mariposa. T.L. Schaefer has developed her writing skills markedly in the intervening time. Almost suddenly, she has developed a sense of what background detail contributes to the story and what should not be included. The result is a seamless narrative that can be swallowed down smooth and unhindered. THE BROTHERHOOD, now out in ebook, is a strong candidate for paperback release. I call this to the attention of paper publishers looking to fill the “exotic” niche in their lists.
 
January 2005 Review

 

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