Special Issue:
Women & Voodoo
August '08

 

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In Deep Voodoo
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-082057-2
ISBN-10: 0-06-082057-8
By: Stephanie Bond
Reviewer: J. Shantz

August 2008

The title is an honest representation of what awaits the reader as Voodoo takes center stage in Stephanie Bond's playfully suspenseful novel In Deep Voodoo.  Not only is the story set during an annual voodoo festival -- in the town of Mojo, Louisiana no less -- but the great mystery at the heart of the tale is set in motion by a reluctant pin prick in a voodoo doll.

Bond's protagonist is Penny Francisco, a would-be organic farmer and owner of the town's health food store, The Charm Farm, whose interests and tastes are in many ways out of sorts with her surroundings.  While Penny wants to turn a piece of land into an organic farm her soon to be ex-husband Deke mocks her efforts and thinks a fish-and-chips joint might be more in line with tastes in Mojo.  Finally leaving Deke after catching him in bed with Sheena, who, horribly for health-conscious Penny, runs the tanning salon, Penny is having a tough time letting go.

Penny's friends are trying to help her move on by throwing a separation day party at a local bar right in the middle of the annual Voodoo Festival.  As part of the fun, and in keeping with the spirit of the week's events, someone gives penny a voodoo doll made to look like Deke.  After a little prodding Penny stabs the Deke doll in the heart.  Fun soon turns to fear when the real Deke turns up dead in his office -- stabbed through the heart.

When news of Deke's murder gets out, Penny becomes the prime suspect.  The town is torn over whether she is a vindictive ex or a voodoo princess (partly hoping for the latter).  The story is presented primarily as a mystery as Penny tries to uncover Deke's killer (assuming it was not voodoo) in a town more than willing (quite happy during voodoo week in fact) to believe that she did it with voodoo.

In fact Penny, a self-described granola-head, has little time for the mystic arts...at least it seems that way...at first.  The concoction she most prefers is her own Vigor Juice, a staple of her health food store.  

The richness of Bond's storytelling comes alive in the secondary characters who are interestingly eccentric without being distractingly over-the-top.  Among the most compelling are the 100-year-old woman who believes in voodoo and visits Penny’s shop every morning after the killing; the employee whose boyfriend does not exist; and the woodsman who has a crush on Penny.

Throughout, the tale swirls with imagery, signs and symbols of voodoo whether on Charm Street or in the hulking visage of the town's wonderfully named Instruments of Death and Voodoo Museum.  Voodoo is everywhere.  In fact voodoo is really the second main character in the novel.  Neither antagonist nor protagonist, voodoo is more of an interlocutor or discussant, an environmental challenge or response to Penny's hopes, fears, dreams and nightmares.  Penny is trying to re/make herself, to carve out her own place in a context not her choosing and which fails to appreciate her aspirations.

Neither romance nor mystery, as advertised, Deep in Voodoo is rather an existential adventure in which the magic of voodoo is the means to a realist understanding of the self.  This is the magic of Bond's book, really.  It is too much to say that Deep in Voodoo casts a spell (and no one wants to hear me say that anyway) but if all good spells include a mix of potent and interesting ingredients then Deep in Voodoo can be counted among them.

   

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