Review by: Mark Palm
I believe that it was Nabokov who suggested that the amount of coincidence in any given life was fixed, and an excess must be a sign of either fate or design. I recently watched the excellent third season of the BBC series Sherlock, which featured the concept of "Memory Palaces", and have lately read a handful of books about the corrosive effects of modern media on communication and memory, which means that perhaps I was fated to read this book.
Season of the Witch by Natasha Mostert is about Gabriel Blackstone. He is a thief, paid to commit industrial espionage and steal confidential information. He is good at it, and one of the reasons is that he is a Remote Viewer, able to perform powerful acts of clairvoyance. He honed his skills in a British DOD project called Eyestorm, becoming the star of that program, but left for reasons I cannot spill without spoiling the plot.
Blackstone is contacted by his ex-girlfriend Frankie, who has since married a rich older man. Frankie was also in Eyestorm, and knows of Gabriel's skills, and her husband's adult son Robert is missing, and wants Blackstone to find him. His main lead is a pair of mysterious women with whom the son had an intense friendship: Morrighan and Minnaloushe Monk. As Gabriel begins to investigate the women he also becomes enthralled by them, and at the same time they seem to have some sort of designs on him. This soon becomes a taut and tense game of cat-and-mouse. The Monk sisters are wonderful characters, beautiful accomplished eccentrics with personalities that contrast and enmesh at the same time. They are deeply involved in alchemy, witchcraft, Gnostic mysticism, and the Art of Memory. They dominate the book, but Ms. Mostert does an excellent job of making Gabriel their match.
The plot is a rollercoaster of twists and turns, and as Gabriel falls deeper into this relationship it becomes clear that the sisters are probably involved with Robert's disappearance, and he, and me as well, are dreading the outcome. To her credit Ms. Mostert takes this story to its apt conclusion, which is thrilling, and sad. The magic and supernatural powers are smartly handled, and the atmosphere and pace are appropriately gothic, and the dangers are scary and feel true-to-life. I enjoyed this book immensely, with only one cavil: the title. It conjured visions of some dismal V. C. Andrews-style horror knock off, one of the ones with the black cover and a lone drop of crimson blood rolling down the spine of the book. Ignore the title. Read the book.