When Juliet Blake receives an email from her sister Zoe proclaiming a new love and her intention of joining his New Age cult in the Cotswolds, she is panicked. She does not believe Zoe knows what is best for her and as her older sister; it is in Juliet’s best interest to rescue her. Julie uses her work as a freelance investigative journalist to worm her way into asking questions.
What she finds when she reaches the ranch is anything but normal, and as she delves in she meets and oddly charismatic and dysfunctional group of people. Besides the unusual characters a type of bedlam seems to exist, a kind of do anything attitude. The leader Craig is nothing like she imagined, and she is drawn to him in an unexplainable way. Craig’s father Don is also present at the ranch, hoping to help his son salvage his commune. Due to the nature of the problems of those living in the commune, the ranch is close to bankruptcy.
There are strange things happening in the commune, and when a priest shows up it further traumatizes the group. Each of them has an unusual reason for being here, and there appear to be no real rules. When one of the attendees begins to lose control and attacks others, Juliet expects police involvement. When this does not occur, she is incredulous, and yet finds herself going along with the reasoning. When attacked herself, she no longer believes the cause. What is happening and why? This loving and freedom-believing cult while wonderful on the surface is a cauldron of deceit and depravity on the inside. Can she help to find the problems? Is Craig the wonderful guy she thinks, and what is it about his father that seems to now attract her?
In Mystical Circles, S.C. Skillman introduces you to an eclectic and slightly damaged group of characters. Skillman does a great job of portraying the damaged psyche in most cases and you can visualize the characters to a great degree. Many of the flaws are quite harmless, and you find yourself drawn to the individuals, hoping the unusual treatment will be the answer, the redeeming feature for them to be able to gain normalcy. Yet there are those others, just severe enough that keep the tension high and keep the group on edge.
Don seems to be the only normal person there, and Juliet finds him to be a great sounding board through the times she spends with them. His relationship with his son however is anything but normal. She is constantly asked to take sides, yet she remains neutral. She is here for a story, and yet she does find herself pulled in to the strangeness.
Juliet on the surface seems to be very sharp and begins her investigation with thought and care. And yet she consistently says the wrong thing setting off different chain reactions the reverberate throughout the commune. She is a catalyst for many of the choices and often seems to put her foot in her mouth when trying to get information from the different members. Her strength seems to change towards the end when she struggles with her own attractions. She seems to lose that edge and her boundaries appear to blur.
Can she help to save this commune, or is it just another mistake, a place for people to hide from real-life with no redeeming qualities. Can she leave after all she has witnessed?
This is an unusual read, one with an interesting cast of characters, and a string of unusual happenings. It moves along at a quick pace and keeps you interested in what may occur next. This is not your usual thriller, and yet it keeps you in suspense. It is more of a mystery of the workings of a disparate group of people. It deals with how relationships are formed and how the smallest of happenings can shatter lives.
Skillman is a deft hand at creating characters. If you are interested in people and their foibles, you will enjoy this book.