By Armand Diaz, PhD
There’s a new mystery subgenre that’s growing in popularity, what we might call astro-detective fiction. In a number of recent books, the protagonist uses astrology to help solve mysteries. Perhaps surprisingly, the books are not coming from established authors of detective fiction, but from some very well established and respected astrologers. Steven Forrest, Alan Annand, and Joyce Mason are three well-known astrologers who have taken the leap into the realm of astro-detective fiction, and the results are impressive.
Actually, the subgenre isn’t really new, but lately titles are popping up more and more frequently. Steven Forrest got the ball rolling with Stalking Anubis back in 2002, although determined readers, themselves acting a bit like detectives, can find titles going back to the 1940s.
Readers unfamiliar with astrology have nothing to worry about with astro-detective fiction, as the actual astrology is never demanding in these books. Mystery fans are used to being led through technical territory anyway—you don’t really need to know much about forensic science, the chemistry of poisons, and so on, in order to appreciate that the detective does know about those things. Readers with some familiarity with astrology will be able to follow the way the detective uses the information, but novices will not feel left out.
After all, we have to remember for the most part detective fiction is as much about the personality of the detective as it is about the logic of problem solving. Even readers who try to follow along closely will often find that key information has been withheld or reinterpreted in ways that were bound to surprise. No, it isn’t logic but the detective’s personality that makes the book worth reading, and fictional detectives tend to have very quirky personalities.
From Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe to Lieutenant Colombo and Monk, we are enthralled by the unique genius of the detectives—and who makes for a quirky genius better than an astrologer?
Personalities differ among detectives. Sherlock Holmes is an aloof genius, Sam Spade is a hardboiled tough guy. In astro-detective fiction, we also find a great deal of variation. One of Alan Annand’s creations, Axel Crowe, is a near-ascetic Vedic astrologer who easily exercises self-control as he sleeps in the same room as his potential love interest in Scorpio Rising. On the other hand, Joyce Mason’s heroine in The Crystal Ball is tougher and more down-to-earth, as West Coast detectives seem to be. Actually, Mason’s character, Micki Michaels, isn’t really a detective so much as an astrologer drawn into a mystery, a typical device in astro-detective fiction.
What makes mystery such an enduring genre? It seems to me that we love the mixture of focus and urgency. We know what needs to be done, and that it needs to be done soon. The question is: how is it going to be done? For that, we need to rely on an expert, someone with a unique set of skills, a hunk of determination, and a touch of genius.
Readers who want a good mystery will find that astro-detective novels fit the bill and make for an interesting, fun read. I’ve given you some leads and dropped a few clues… now it’s up to you.
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Category: Book Reviews