Former Archivist Mary Wandwalker hates bringing bad news. Nevertheless, she confirms to her alma mater that their prized medieval alchemy scroll, is, in fact, a seventeenth century copy. She learns that the original vanished to colonial Connecticut with alchemist, Robert Le More. Later the genuine scroll surfaces in Los Angeles. Given that the authentic artifact is needed for her Oxford college to survive, retrieving it is essential.
Mary agrees to get the real scroll back as part of a commission for her three-person Enquiry Agency. However, tragedy strikes in Los Angeles. Before Mary can legally obtain the scroll, a young man is murdered, and the treasure stolen.
Murder and theft are complicated by the disappearance in the UK of a witch mysteriously connected to the scroll. While Mary’s colleague, Caroline, risks her sanity to go undercover in a dodgy mental hospital, her lover, Anna resorts to desperate measures. These, and Anna’s silence over blackmail, threaten the survival of the Agency.
Mary teams up with the victim’s brother to track the killer, and the real alchemy scroll. Solving crimes on two continents will involve a rogue pharmaceutical corporation, Janet the witch, the Holywell Retreat Center near Oxford, plus the trafficked women they support, a graduate school in California, and a life-threatening mountain-consuming wildfire.
Can these inexperienced detectives triumph over corrupt professors and racist attempts to rewrite history? Can they remake their fragile family? Will the extraordinary story of Robert Le More prove a source of hope for today?
A simple job turns deadly when Mary Wandwalker, novice detective, is hired to chaperone a young American, Rhiannon, to the Oxford University Summer School on the ancient Celts. Worried by a rhetoric of blood sacrifice, Mary and her operatives, Caroline, and Anna, attend a sacrifice at a sacred well. They discover that those who fail to individuate their gods become possessed by them.
For the so-called Reborn Celts, who run the summer school, have been infiltrated by white supremacists. Could their immersion in myth be less a symbol for psychic wholeness and more a clue of their intent to engage in terrorist violence? Who better to penetrate their secret rites than an apparently harmless woman of a certain age?
Mary agrees to spy on the Reborn Celts, then learns, to her horror, of Anna’s passionate affair with the chief suspect, Joe Griffith. With Griffith also the object of Rhiannon’s obsession, Mary realizes too late that that these 21st century Celts mean murder.
The Reborn Celts draw Mary and her friends into three rites to summon their gods: at an Oxford sacred well, by the Thames on the way to London, and in Celtic London, where bloodshed will restore one of the Thames’ “lost rivers.”
Before the fatal night of the summer solstice, Caroline and Anna race to London seeking Mary, who has been kidnapped. Will she end as the crone sacrifice? Or will the three women re-make their detecting family, so re-constituting a pattern of archetypal feminine compassion?
Susan Rowland (PhD) teaches at Pacifica Graduate Institute and is the author of ten books on Jung, the feminine, literature and the arts. Her last (with Joel Weishaus) is Jungian Arts-Based Research and the Nuclear Enchantment of New Mexico (2021).
For a decade Susan has been working on a project to examine feminine heroism as a way to cultural renewal. Her first novel, The Sacred Well Murders, was published by Chiron in 2022. The book explores marginalized women becoming involved in epoch-defining events that entail literal and symbolic violence. The Alchemy Fire Murder: A Mary Wandwalker Mystery, is the second in the series.