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Nancy Labs
Wishing You Harm
Nancy Labs, author
A young widow is thrust into a world of alchemical symbols, secret societies, paranormal phenomena, and spiritual warfare as she seeks to unravel the mystery of her husband’s death.
Labs’s knotty first entry in the Brooke Roberts mystery series finds a young widow near Philadelphia caught in a cat-and-mouse game of intrigue over a magical medallion. Two months ago, Brooke’s husband Karl Erikson, a painter 24 years her senior, died in an apparent accident falling down an embankment and drowning in a creek. Now, during a retrospective of his work at the local art gallery, the couple’s house is ransacked, the burglars obviously looking for something in particular. Detectives are alarmed at the potential of someone wishing Brooke harm and reopen the case of Karl’s death, and soon Brooke learns that Karl, a committed atheist, had been attending church and lectures about Biblical connections to the occult.

Brooke dives into the search for answers, learning that Karl had possession of a troubling item—a medallion used in occult rituals—recently appraised by antique dealer Mordecai Simmons, who believes it could have been cursed and belongs under lock and key. While readers will likely be eager to learn more about the paranormal elements and potential cult mysteries, Labs introduces a multitude of robbery suspects, stretching out the story: Karl’s adult children Stephanie and Brett (who has recently joined a secret society); his ex-wife Janine and her husband Greg; his art student Rob; plus Brooke’s uncle Nelson; gallery owner Madeleine and her drunk husband Sidney; patronizing Historical Conservancy Director David Price; and a vociferous television producer and occultist Elena Voss.

Readers will trail the characters (and their histories) down their circuitous paths in this elaborate mystery. As the truth trickles in, and the question of who broke into the house and wants the medallion crystallizes, Labs ramps up the entertaining intrigue with sprinkles of Renaissance history and long-hidden secrets, including surprising connections to 20th century American political unrest. Readers will enjoy the inviting tone and promising mystery, but they should not expect a supernatural extravaganza.

Takeaway: This thriller follows a widow’s quest to understand why her husband owned a potentially cursed medallion.

Great for fans of: Steve Zuckerman’s The Ruthless Relic, Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House.

Production grades
Cover: A
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: B
Marketing copy: A-