Summer intern Brynn is on an urban fantasy kick. Most recently she read Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert, in no small part due to mild fascination with the song. The book is set in modern-day London and features protagonist Gabriel Blackstone, a professional hacker with a past in government-sanctioned “remote viewing.” (That’s the official scientific terminology for mind reading, apparently.) He’s content to make a living stealing information from companies with his business partner, Isidore, until an ex-girlfriend shows up on his doorstep one day. Frankie, who may or may not have been the love of Gabriel’s life, is now married to a very wealthy man and unattainable, and she wants to pay Gabriel to find her missing stepson.
This leads Gabriel into investigating the Monk sisters, Morrighan and Minnaloushe (yeah), who are very wealthy, beautiful, and enigmatic. As Gabriel falls deeper into their world of alchemy, magic, and the Art of Memory, he realizes that he may in fact be in love with them both–which is unfortunate because he believes one of them to be a murderer. The question is, which one?
Mostert takes a very interesting approach to the urban fantasy by combining it with elements of history and science fiction. The sisters are descendants of John Dee, a real-life occultist and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I. The Monks also practice the Art of Memory, a real collection of techniques used to improve recall and inspire creativity. The sisters use it to great effect.
However, their “memory palace”–properly called an architectural mnemonic, an imaginary house filled with rooms of objects that trigger their memory, not unheard of in today’s media–is amplified by the practice of remote viewing. While there are psychics who claim to be remote viewers today, Mostert admits in the afternote that her characters’ abilities are exaggerated beyond any claims that real remote viewers make. Such is the artistic license of fiction. Furthermore, she also creates a British organization similar to the American Project STARGATE, in which the CIA investigated psychics as possible agents for military and domestic uses (this was the inspiration for the film The Men Who Stare at Goats, by the way). Skeptics may find it baffling to know that the project was real, although it ended in 1995 when no useful application was found.
A very interesting, very investing book that crosses genres easily and requires no great suspension of disbelief. Recommended for fans of urban fantasy and those who like mysteries or thrillers with a slight element of horror.