The indomitable Annie Szabo has lost too many friends and loved ones, so the death of Margo Spanger hits hard. Margo, Annie’s neighbor, was a cultural icon with money and fame. Maybe too much … She used one of her projects, a New Age circus, to fund a women’s shelter and it has ticked a few of the wrong people off.
When Margo’s partner, Lili, goes missing the day of Margo’s death, the circus and shelter fall into disarray. It turns Annie’s world upside down, too. Her daughter is a resident of the women’s shelter and could become the next victim.
More trouble: Annie’s mother-in-law, the Gypsy fortune-teller Madame Mina, plants her trailer in Annie’s yard with a vengeance, right next to Annie’s pet giraffes.
Aided by an ex-cop and Mina’s plant medicine, Annie uncovers Margo’s past. Margo had rattled the power elite, a trapeze flier, one jealous lover, a captain of industry, a long-lost son, and an ice-blond philanthropist.
As Annie delves into their surprisingly tangled lives, one thing becomes clear—the killer is a master of disguises, and time is running out. However, when Annie and Madame Mina put their heads together, the truth can’t hide.
“In this fine sequel to her highly praised debut, The Hummingbird Wizard, Blevins, a fifth-generation Californian, blends a wild story, wonderful wit, and great characters.” – The Library Journal
The Library Journal chose ‘The Vanished Priestess as one of the five top mysteries published in 2004.
“At the start of Blevins’s second mystery to feature resourceful Annie Szabo (after 2003’s well-received The Hummingbird Wizard), the California freelance journalist finds her life turned into a three-ring circus in more ways than one.
“Her eccentric Gypsy fortune-teller mother-in-law, Madame Mina, has parked her trailer in Annie’s yard. Annie’s daughter, Abra, and Abra’s son, Joey, show up just ahead of Annie’s violent and abusive son-in-law. And her neighbor, Margo Spanger, the rich, eccentric owner-operator of a New Age circus that helps support a home for abused women, has both animal and human performers whose activities spill over into Annie’s territory.
“When Margo’s sudden death proves to be murder, Annie has her hands full tracking down her neighbor’s killer as well as protecting her daughter and grandson.” — Publishers Weekly
“…The over-the-big-top characters keep the plot spinning, and the mystery pays off with colorful atmosphere, eventful storytelling, and dramatic finish.” — Mystery Scene
“In this unique mystery, Blevins creates a Gypsy world unlike any other depicted in mysteries before. Annie is funny, strong and, above all, she will do anything to take care of those she loves. Lively and real characters jump off the page, the mystery is well constructed, and it’s fascinating to see how Annie solves it.”–Romantic Times Book Club
“One of the most interesting writers I’ve been introduced to recently is Meredith Blevins…
“What sets her mysteries apart is the fabulously mixed cast of characters and a Gypsy sensibility in the writing. It’s difficult to describe, but it is there: odd thoughts, abbreviated sentences, a unique turn of phrase.
“It would be easy to go for broad Janet Evanovich-style humor when one is writing about fortune tellers and trapeze artists and 350-pound brothel madams, but Blevins resists the temptation. There is humor in The Vanished Priestess, but she gently pokes fun at her characters’ eccentricities while letting the reader know she has a great affection for them. Although, Madame Mina (not to be confused with Juanita the madam) is a piece of work!”–World-Herald
“This is a book for those of you who like off-the-wall characters and different settings … What follows is a story of murder, of love gone sour in more than one case, and a story of hope. Peopled with outlandish characters, this book is one of a kind, made equally captivating by a strong plot.” –Mystery News
“Amateur sleuth fans will love THE VANISHED PRIESTESS!” Harriet Klausner, #1 Reviewer
“Widowed after only a few years of marriage, Annie Szabo inherited her Gypsy mother-in-law Mina, who was not pleased when her son married an outsider. Over time, the two combating women found a way to co-exist at a distance with one another. Though they would never admit this to anyone, even their maker, they respect one another. Annie is unhappy when Mina comes for an extended visit, for a large dose of the woman will drive her crazy.
“However, Annie’s concern over her failing mental health due to Madame Mina’s presence is diverted by someone shooting her neighbor, Margo Spencer, in the back–circus friends of the victim discovered the body. Margo owned and operated a new age circus that funded a shelter for battered and abused women. When Annie’s daughter, Abra, arrived bruised, Margo brought her to the shelter and the Szabo women closed ranks against her abusing spouse Rory. At the same time that Margo is killed, her lover Lili disappears. To get her mind off of all the negativity that floods her soul, Annie investigates the homicide.
“An Annie Szabo mystery is always a special treat due to the eccentric Szabo clan that plays powerful secondary roles especially driving the heroine nuts with their loyalty and other shtick that she reciprocates 100 percent. Meredith Blevins applies a wicked sense of humor, at times edgy, but never quite over the edge, as the conversations between characters, especially the cross-purpose discussions between Annie and Mina, are fabulous. Amateur sleuth fans will love ‘The Vanished Priestess’.” — Harriet Klausner
“Meredith Blevins Succeeds Again, Wonderfully. As if it weren’t enough for Annie to contend with her Gypsy (read culture-clash) mother-in-law, who casts spells and waylays wandering craftsmen, there’s a circus next door, a wife-beating son-in-law, and, SURPRISE, a murder! Annie and m-in-l come closer to being friends, and there’s a new cast of characters. Also nice sense-of-place of coastal Calif. She also plays fair with clues. Meredith, keep them coming!” – By M, Compulsive Reader, Santa Cruz, CA
“Annie’s Back! Funny how book people can come to occupy a place like real friends. I fell in love with the Szabos in The Hummingbird Wizard, and it was so good to see them again. The circus thread introduced in the previous book is played up here, with more Gypsy magic and kick-ass multi-generational girl power.
“It’s a lovely romp that dovetails nicely with the first novel. My only regret was that Margo wasn’t around longer; I would love to have seen her in a book of her own.
“One of Blevins’ great strengths is the believability of her characters. It’s hard to imagine that these women aren’t actually walking around out there somewhere. I can’t wait for the next one.” – Rebekah Maxwell, Columbia, S.C.