Shaman’s Blues (Book II in the Mae Martin Mysteries series)
by Amber Foxx
A B.R.A.G. Medallion honoree
Second in Amber Foxx’s Mae Martin Mysteries series, Shaman’s Blues gives us a sneak peak into a dire moment in Jamie Ellerbee’s life, then re-opens with Mae Martin as she prepares to leave her Virginia practice where, until now, she offered energy healing and psychic services. A year since discovering her psychic ability, Mae is now in the midst of a divorce and about to embark on a journey to New Mexico, where she will attend university and re-unite with her father, who came out and separated from his family when Mae was a teenager.
Before leaving, her soon-to-be-former supervisor, Deborah, gifts a CD of healing music to Mae, with an “ulterior motive,” as Deborah playfully calls it. The musician, Jangerrai, seems to have disappeared off the face of the earth, or at least from Santa Fe and all known Internet, and Mae is tasked with finding him.
It doesn’t take Mae long to encounter a variety of personalities: her father and his peevish partner, Niall; Kenny, her new neighbor; even Muffie Blanchette, owner of a local restaurant that caters to what Neill refers to as “spiritual tourism.” Dada Café, called after an art style later linked to theater, utilizes customers in a similar way as the stage movement, with the philosophy that the “audience is as much a part of the show as the actors.”
Muffie, who typically circulates, advising patrons on colors, food intake and the state of their auras, disappears following an encounter with pragmatic Mae, who is then informed by the manger, Roseanne, of Muffie’s stated intent to ascend. She thinks Muffie is a whackjob, and shows the psychic Muffie’s website:
Sri Rama Kriya teaches us how to choose our time and leave our bodies without pain or death, how to channel our spirits directly to the upper realms of energy and light. When you study Ascended Bliss, you are freed from the cycle of karma and rebirth, and from your body.
At this point Roseanne enlists Mae to find Muffie, steering her two searches together and leading the healer toward a path inhabited by a series of quirky characters of many temperaments. Foxx even sets the story in a place with a cautionary moniker: Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, pertinent not only for being an unusual designation, but also the city’s acquisition of it whereby the inhabitants became part of the television show it gets its name from.
As I was getting started, I’d wondered if the book would read like a New Age novel, but Foxx keeps it diverse, with doubt even from Mae re: the veracity of some individuals’ beliefs, and includes the added bonus of treating vulnerable characters with dignity. Shaman’s Blues is also a smooth read with an intriguing landscape to match the sense of place infused within:
Openness to the odd fit with the character of the land: vast empty spaces of juniper-stubbled pink-beige dirt, dramatic wind-carved cliffs, narrow hoodoo towers, broad mesas, blood red arroyos, black volcanic teeth jutting from brown earth. Anything seemed possible here.
Fortunately, Mae is open to these possibilities, and as she encounters answers new questions arise, leading her to be a detective of sorts in the life’s mysteries referred to in the series’ tagline, “Every life hides a secret.” What secrets are these two people hiding? As she makes considerable strides in her searches while also trying to live her life, Mae begins to recognize the realities of hiding behind created identities, to become someone more fascinating as well as more ordinary, to hide from others and from one’s own self.
As Mae locates Jangerrai and begins to unravel some of the mystery behind a semi exchange of roles involving the two missing persons, she becomes familiar with the world of the shaman, part of his world whereby an individual in aboriginal Australian society is chosen by the spirits to learn to utilize the elements and act as a go-between for the human and spiritual dimensions. It is a heady realm to be investigating and the skittish singer only slowly and reluctantly reveals to Mae the events that brought him to the place he now inhabits.
The journey is one that Foxx maps out with expertise and finesse, playing knowingly to reader expectations and drawing back at just the right moments. We feel Mae’s frustrations, sometimes groan at her enduring patience, and always eagerly read on to see what she is coming to know, whether it be more recounting of events or details that link her closer to understanding the past. It is a topographic exploration of the psyche to learn the lay of the land, and she must walk it to determine the features and their limitations, as well as which direction to move from there.
Few of us have the gifts Mae is given, but we have in common with her our own limitations, such as with a likeable but needy person who holds on too much, too long.
It was going to be a long, long night. Mae hoped she could get through it still liking him. He had the potential to either entertain her or get on her nerves, and it was a fifty-fifty which way things would go.
The author also tosses in the familiar in a new way— “Whoop – missed the street – chuck a yewy”—and humor we can relate to—“a van that looked old enough to vote”— to create a balance of the fresh and familiar. In so doing, she also tells us a story with a potentially heavy framework, but in a manner that keeps us from having to perform the heavy lifting.
As she begins to wind down, Foxx also gives us a thrilling few moments, within the plot as well as where it all will take those involved, including readers. I personally was pleased to see that certain events do and do not transpire, and how the author takes us back to Mae’s beginnings while also showing the resultant links amongst various players. These are sure to spur readers to seek out number one in the series and learn the events in Mae’s own life, her marriage, the discovery of her gifts, everything that leads her to the moment she herself now inhabits, where we as readers first came together.
Amber Foxx has worked professionally in theater, dance, fitness, and academia. Her training and academic studies in various fields of complementary and alternative medicine, including energy healing, bring authenticity to her work. She has researched psi phenomena through the scientific literature and by talking with seers and healers. A college professor and yoga teacher, she divides her time between the Southeast and the Southwest, living in Truth or Consequences during her New Mexico months.
The fifth book in the Mae Martin Series, set in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico and the Mescalero Apache reservation, is well underway and should be out later in 2016.
A copy of Shaman’s Blues was furnished to the blogger in exchange for an honest review.
Images courtesy Amber Foxx.