If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY (guest post, review, & giveaway)

May 25, 2016 Blog Tours, Book Reviews, Guest Post 40 ★★★★

If You're Goin' to San Francisco: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY (guest post, review, & giveaway)

If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY (guest post, review, & giveaway)The Madness of Mercury Series: Zodiac Mysteries #1
on June 8, 2016
Pages: 312
Purchase: Amazon
Add to Goodreads

Also in this series: All Signs Point to Murder

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti's life is turned upside down when she becomes the target of the city's newest cult leader, Reverend Roy of the Prophet's Tabernacle. Driven out of her apartment in the midst of a disastrous Mercury retrograde period, she takes shelter with a client who's caring for two elderly aunts. One aunt appears stricken with dementia and the other has fallen under the spell of the Reverend Roy. To add to the confusion, a young man claiming to be a long lost nephew arrives. The longer he stays, the more dangerous things become. Is the young man truly a member of the family? Can astrology confirm that? Julia's not sure, but one thing she does know is that Mercury wasn't merely the messenger of the gods—he was a trickster and a liar as well.

I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco . . .

A guest post by Connie di Marco

Remember that old song from the Summer of Love? Well, if you do go to San Francisco, you can forget the flowers in your hair but it’s a must to take a cable car ride.

When I lived there, I rode the Powell-Hyde line every day. It was the quickest way to get from my apartment to work. The last stretch of that ride, from the top of Russian Hill to the bottom of Hyde Street is one that might cause some sweaty palms as you ponder the fact that it’s only a thin cable running under city streets that’s keeping you safe.

Nob Hill, San Francisco (Looking west up California Street, Nob Hill district, San Francisco) - Photo by Dave Glass (flickr.com/daveglass), February 14, 2009

Nob Hill, San Francisco (Looking west up California Street, Nob Hill district, San Francisco) – Photo by Dave Glass (flickr.com/daveglass), February 14, 2009

Now, Julia Bonatti, my protagonist in the Zodiac Mysteries, spends a lot of time in North Beach and around Russian Hill, but she buzzes around the city in her little Geo. I think I’ll have to find a reason for her to take a cable car ride soon.

diMarco_MADNESS OF MERCURY_wheelsIt was a man named Andrew Smith Hallidie who developed the system in 1873 using a wire-rope design. Hallidie, a few years before, had witnessed a terrible accident when a horse drawn carriage attempted to climb a steep hill paved with wet cobblestones. The load was too heavy, the surface too slippery and five horses were dragged to their deaths. Hallidie was horrified and determined to design a safer system.

The heart of the system is the cable car barn at the corner of Mason and Washington Streets that powers all the cables. There were once many more cable lines that criss-crossed the city but one by one, they were retired and replaced with buses and trolleys. It was thanks to the efforts of the Citizen’s Committee to Save the Cable Cars that the last three remaining lines were restored and still remain in service.

The Powell-Mason line starts at the turnaround at Powell and Market Streets. It runs up the big hill to the top of Powell (sometimes you wonder if it really will reach the top), crosses over Nob Hill, turns left on Jackson, right on Mason, a jog to the left on Columbus, a right on Taylor and ends at the corner of Bay and Taylor Streets. It’s the quickest way to get to North Beach or Fisherman’s Wharf from downtown.

The Powell-Hyde line starts at the same turnaround, but this car climbs the hill on Powell, crosses Nob Hill, takes a left on Jackson, a right on to Hyde Street, crosses over Russian Hill and then straight down the steep hill to Aquatic Park.

The California line starts at the bottom of California at Market Street and runs in an east-west direction, crossing over Nob Hill and ending at California and Van Ness.

A cable car ride is one of the best deals in town — $5.00 each way or a $13 passport for one day. Children 4 and under ride free. So if you’re goin’ to San Francisco . . . grip that bar tightly, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!


Review (by Lark)

The Madness of Mercury provides an interesting debut to what promises to be an entertaining series. I liked Julie, the protagonist. She’s caring, loyal, and brave (even foolhardy at times), the sort of person who tends to give of herself without counting the cost. She also possesses a regrettable tendency to head into dangerous situations without fully weighing the risks and potential consequences. I hope for her sake that she develops a little more common sense in that regard as the series continues.

Between the threat of the Prophet’s Tabernacle group, and the question of whether someone is trying to kill Evandra, the mystery plot kept me absorbed from start to finish. I didn’t realize until I looked at di Marco’s website that Reverend Roy and the Prophet’s Tabernacle group are based on the Rev. Jim Jones and his followers, which makes them seem all the more chilling in retrospect.

As a literary device, Julie’s newspaper astrology column works well, both in making Julie a target of the Prophet’s Tabernacle group, and in giving her contacts who can find and convey useful information. The San Francisco setting provides local color; since the city is comprised of a series of neighborhoods and communities, it feels less impersonal than a megatropolis like Chicago or New York, which helps maintain the “cozy” feel. And Julie’s involvement with other members of the psychic set also helps build a sense of community and adds a slightly eccentric flair. The book is a touch too heavy on the astrological detail in the beginning, but I appreciate how di Marco uses it for foreshadowing or hinting at what is to come.

I was left with some unanswered questions at the end, mostly dealing with details rather than major plot points. One character seemed to me to be mainly in the book as a plot device, but on the whole, all the major and secondary characters had a real role to play, whether small or large. Most unusually for a book with a youngish female protagonist, there is no hint of a romantic relationship on the horizon, but I didn’t feel the lack of one.

I’m interested to see where di Marco goes with this series. There’s no word yet on book two.  Ms. di Marco also writes another series, the Soup Lover’s Mysteries, as Connie Archer. I’m quite fond of the Soup Lover’s series and hope there will be more of them; now I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next Zodiac Mystery as well.



Enter to win a copy of The Madness of Mercury!

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About Connie di Marco

Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries featuring San Francisco astrologer, Julia Bonatti. The Madness of Mercury is the first in the series. Writing as Connie Archer, she is also the author of the Soup Lover’s Mysteries set in Vermont from Berkley Prime Crime. You can find her excerpts and recipes in The Cozy Cookbook and The Mystery Writers of America Cookbook. Connie is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Clean Sweep ARC Challenge (May 2016)
  • Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016

40 Responses to “If You’re Goin’ to San Francisco: THE MADNESS OF MERCURY (guest post, review, & giveaway)”

  1. Cindy

    I love cozies and San Francisco! What a great review! I need to read this book:)

    • Connie di Marco

      Hi Katherine – Cable cars take some getting used to. Hopping on and off is more difficult sometimes than riding them!
      PS: I think Book 2 will be called Dark Sun.
      Connie di Marco recently posted…Black CatsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Oh, I’ll have to come check out your review! As for the cable cars, they make me nervous to look at them, too — but then again, so does driving on those streets.

      • Connie di Marco

        I used to be scared about the hills, but I watched how taxi drivers did it. They got to the top of the hill, and didn’t stop till they were on the level intersection. Very scary at first, especially with a stick shift!
        Connie di Marco recently posted…Black CatsMy Profile

        • Lark_Bookwyrm

          I have this terror of going up steep hills, with “nothingness” behind me. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I like going down any better. Isn’t that funny for someone who used to enjoy downhill skiing? But it’s different (scarier) in a vehicle, for some reason.

          • Connie di Marco

            I used to drive a tiny little Honda and it barely had the power to get UP the hill, but at least the brakes worked going down! Not a place if you suffer from vertigo. There are two very scary elevator rides too, kids love them. One is at the Fairmont Hotel and the other at the St. Francis Hotel. They shoot up on the outside of the building and you leave your stomach behind!
            Connie di Marco recently posted…Black CatsMy Profile

          • Lark_Bookwyrm

            I’ve been in an outdoor glass-sided elevator before; I was thankful the hotel was only about 10 stories high! I’ve been working on getting over some of my fear of heights. My husband and I took an open-door helicopter ride in Sedona, AZ, last summer, and I absolutely loved it. But I knew I was securely strapped in, which helped.

  2. Dianne Casey

    Can’t wait to read “The Madness of Mercury “. I would enjoy learning more about astrology and this sounds like an amazing book. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      Good luck! It’s a fun book which at the same time deals with a fairly serious subject (the power of cults.) I hope one way or another you get a chance to read it.

  3. Lola

    That cable car ride picture gives me the shivers. I always wonder that exact same thing with cable car rides, how such a small looking cable keeps you save. Although so far the only type of cable cars I’ve been in are the ones through the air and I find those scary, so probably wouldn’t like these either. But it is a neat concept how it gets you easy from point A to B through such a technique. It sure it a nice piece of engineering to see how that works.

    Great review Lark! I got a copy of this one through netgalley and I’ve been seeing some reviews around from this book and it makes me excited for it. i hope I can read it soon. I always have a soft spot for people who give a lot without considering the cost to themselves. Oh and I love it when a book has well done foreshadowing. I’ll keep in mind the astrology is a tad heavy at first, as I know little about the subject, so I’ll remember that it gets less after the start. And I didn’t realize she has written another series as well, will have to look that up if I enjoy this one. Great review and I hope I’ll enjoy this one as well!
    Lola recently posted…Review: Forever and One Week by Caroline CairnMy Profile

    • Connie di Marco

      Hi Lola – Thanks so much for visiting today! Fortunately I’ve never heard of any accidents with cable cars, and I certainly hope there never is one! I’m a complete chicken when it comes to scary rides at amusement parks, I’ll take a cable car any day! Best of luck, Lola!
      Connie di Marco recently posted…Black CatsMy Profile

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      When I realized that this series was by the same author as the Soup Lover’s series, I had to read it. And yes, I think the astrology stuff has to be heavier initially to get readers kind of “up to speed” with it. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it, and look forward to your review. 🙂

  4. Sally Schmidt

    Hi Connie,
    We always take our visitors to SF and ride the cable cars, and sometimes just us just for fun when we have no guests. The cable car museum (is it still there?) is very interesting.

    From this review it sounds like Julia may be a little like Lucky – caring, loyal and brave but a little foolhardy. Looking forward to meeting her.

    • Lark_Bookwyrm

      It was for me, too. Oh, I’ve occasionally read the horoscope in the newspaper (back when anyone bothered to get a newspaper instead of just going to an online news site.) But I’ve never seen it as the theme for a cozy—definitely a unique concept as well as fun!

  5. Stormi

    I have this book to review but haven’t been able to fit it in yet but I can’t wait as it sounds really good. I love me some cozies. 🙂

    Stormi recently posted…The Week In Review #90My Profile