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Murder on the Astral Plane

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Three moon gifPenquin Putnam Inc (Paperback), ISBN 0-425-17359-3
Jaqueline Girdner includes everything from Nietzsche to Voodoo and draws on every slapstick comedian ever known for her eleventh Kate Jasper novel, Murder on the Astral Plane.  

From the moment karma-impaired Kate Jasper steps into Justine's psychic soiree, her life resembles a surreal slapstick comedy with paranormal overtones. Obsessed with a recent dream and her seeming ability to attract dead bodies, Kate recounts these concerns to best friend and sporadic psychic Barbara Chu. Barbara immediately prescribes an astral cure for her best bud, and drags her off to meet the psychic's psychic: Justine.  

Book: Jaqueline Girdner, Murder on the Astral PlaneAlthough Justine possesses the powers, her control of circumstances slips at the soiree. A comrade subsequently dies in a Poe-like locked room situation surrounded by a motley crew of misfit psychics and psychic groupies. To her chagrin, Kate finds her natural sorrow and shock at a life ended violently and prematurely mixed with dismay and irritation at discovering yet another dead body -- one whose face featured prominently in her original dream. 

Death, murder, violence, evil -- nothing seems serious in this tongue-in-cheek romp. Once Kate and Barbara set out to solve the murder, they transform into Moe and Curly of the Three Stooges. Slapstick comedy, pratfalls and near misses pepper this bizarre book. Wild car rides send the two women skittering through the streets of Pomona, Calif., in Barbara's VW bug. Only Barbara's psychic ability stands between them and the next accident.  

Book: Jaqueline Girdner, Death Hits the FanAdding to the hysteria, the Mutt and Jeff of the police world, Lieutenant Kettering and Chief Wenger of Pomona's finest, investigate the crimes and the potential criminals. This mismatched pair use a hodge-podge of psychic techniques, enlisting the help of their own psychic who can read emotional meridians. 

One outstanding character repeatedly drew me back into this quirky Abbott and Costello-ish landscape: Wayne Caruso. Wayne spent most of the book sleeping off a bad case of pneumonia, but when he awoke, he embodied the modern, mature and compassionate man.  

A former bouncer and bodyguard, Wayne sports the cauliflower nose and scars of his one-time profession. From bouncer he advanced to restaurant owner and gourmet cook. He makes toe-curling love (even with pneumonia) and can talk to anyone in any situation, except maybe Kate's ex-husband. The well-read, philosophically inclined Wayne wants to commit, cajoling, even blackmailing Kate into marriage. After closing the book, I continue to miss Wayne. I can't say that for the rest of the cast. 

If you enjoy quirky psychic abilities and can pretend you don't know the murderer (by page 30 most mystery buffs will figure it out), you'll enjoy this roller coaster ride through murder and mayhem. 

Dawn Goldsmith

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