BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature
A lively discussion of ancient and modern Pagan literature -- including children's books, graphic novels, science fiction, fantasy, and mysteries -- along with interviews, author highlights, and profiles of Pagan publishers.
On Pagan Mystery Series
I love a good mystery. Gore I can do without, but good old fashioned suspense, intriguing puzzles, deep dark secrets. Heck, yeah. Even better if the sleuth who stars in said mystery is Pagan; or, at the very least, magically-inclined.*
The latter is easy enough to find. Study the shelves at your neighborhood library or bookstore, or browse the Amazon or B&N sites, and you will find plenty of mysteries which feature magically-gifted protagonists. Most fall in to the "cozy/amateur sleuth" category; meaning, no gore, no sex, and no hard-core swearing. Just to name a few such examples: the Magical Dressmaking Mystery series by Melissa Bourbon; the Magical Bakery series by Bailey Cates; the Magical Cats series by Sofie Kelly; Annette Blair's Vintage Magic series; the Magical Cures series by Tonya Kappes; and Ellery Adams' brand new Charmed Pie Shoppe series.
There are also a number of psychic and ghostly sleuths whose adventures you can follow. Kari Lee Townsend's Fortune Teller series, for instance; the Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter series from Victoria Laurie; the Haunted Souvenir Shop series from Christy Fifield; and Molly MacCrae's new Haunted Yarn Shop series.
Mysteries with certifiable Pagan protagonists, though, are few and far between. Juliet Blackwell's excellent Witchcraft Mystery series features Lily Ivory, a hereditary witch of mixed Aztec and European descent. In Madelyn Alt's Bewitching Mystery series, girl-next-door Maggie O'Neill accepts a job at an antique shop -- only to discover that her new boss is a Witch; thus begins her introduction to Wicca. Shirley Damsgaard's Ophelia and Abby series features a psychic granddaughter and witch grandmother, plus a pair of adventurous cats. M.R. Sellars' Rowan Gant series (take note: this is not a cozy mystery) features a St. Louis-based Wiccan/computer programmer who is called on by an overwhelmed police force unable to solve a series of ritualistic murders.
And ... I think that's about it.
This situation seriously needs to be rectified. The above series are a good start, but surely the Pagan community can do better. What about a police procedural starring an Asatru detective? One in which his devotion to his faith is not some throw-away tidbit -- something to just make the character oddly cool -- but an integral element of the story and his life. Or maybe the protagonist is a coroner who is also a devout Kemetic. How would a skilled author integrate that spirituality into the search for a murderer? Or, make the sleuth a Druid who is also an herbalist or perhaps a Park Ranger. Or, perhaps the protagonist lives in modern day Beirut, but is a follower of the old ways; a Canaanite Pagan. How would such a person -- fearful of ridicule, imprisonment or even death -- hold on to his or her faith while also attempting to solve a terrible crime? Or, move further north; set the story in Lithuania, and feature a protagonist whose family managed to hold on to the old ways through wars and persecution. She can practice openly, and even hold public office; but what happens when an ugly, nationalistic strain of the old ways rears its head and bodies start to pile up? Or (just one more suggestion) what about an American archaeologist working in Greece who honors the old Gods and considers the sites that she is excavating to be sacred ground? How would she react to, say, a murder in Delphi?
There are good mysteries out there featuring Pagan and polytheist and magical sleuths. But not enough. Track down a few of the above and enjoy yourself. Then pull out your pen and paper or typewriter or computer and get to writing. There are stories waiting to be told.
*This time, we're sticking with contemporary mysteries. Ancient mysteries, such as Lindsey Davis' Marcus Didius Falco series, will have to wait for another column.
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