This novel kicks off a cozy mystery series that will appeal to anyone who loves astrology and plenty of intrigue in their latest read. Peppered with references to the zodiac and seasoned liberally with zany cahoots and zesty chills, your fall is off to a crisp start when you welcome it by picking up Connie di Marco‘s The Madness of Mercury (Midnight Ink)If you’re wondering why I’m ladling out the cooking puns it’s in honor of her previous, beloved Soup Lovers’ Mysteries series. But back to the stars.

San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti’s world goes haywire when the planet Mercury goes into retrograde. Suddenly she’s facing the city’s latest religious cult leader and his mobs’ protest right outside her door. She flees to a clients’ Victorian abode, where one elderly resident is suffering from the pangs that come with the twilight of life and the other wants to cause suffering to Julia. Mysterious and sinister events soon follow our protagonist around the mansion, leaving her with no choice but to unleash all her astrological, and scientific, knowledge upon the cult leader attempting to wreak havoc even here.

We got to ask some additional questions about the book to this inventive author. She didn’t disappoint! Read on for a deeper dive into the mind behind the mystery mayhem, and if you want to read the full review of The Madness of Mercury, click your way over here.

Q: You obviously know your way around astrology, but did you find yourself needing to do some extra research as you wrote this book?

A: The mystery and plot must always come first. After that, the astrology has to reveal the essence of a character. So, I wouldn’t say I do astrological research, as much as I create “fictional” birth charts for certain characters such as the victim or the murderer. Using an approximate age, I search for birth data that fits that character’s description. Does my murderer have a Mars/Pluto conjunction that could make him potentially brutal? Or does a victim display traits in his or her chart that make that character vulnerable? I do make sure to get it right because, believe me, I’ll hear from a reader who really knows astrology if I make a mistake!

Q: Do readers ever ask you for astrology advice?

A: No, but many of them have been happy to share details of their natal charts with me. Always interesting!

Q: Tell us more about the séance scene and how you went about writing it. Why a séance in a book about astrology?

A: Initially, I hadn’t planned on using the eccentric characters who appear at the Mystic Eye occult bookshop as recurring characters, but as the series progressed, I realized how important they are to the fabric of the stories. In The Madness of Mercury, an elderly woman is convinced an ancestral ghost will appear before a death in the family. The séance, using two of the recurring characters, a medium and a past-life regression hypnotist, was too good to pass up and was a lot of fun to write. I’ve never attended a séance but did my best to imagine what it might be like.  

Q: You were an autopsy secretary in medical school in your twenties. Do you have any offbeat stories from that experience? Did any of them make it into the book? 

A: Many years ago, a two-week temporary job preparing autopsy reports at a well-known medical center in Boston ended up lasting two years. I learned a lot, particularly in cases where the cause of death was uncertain or in dispute. Did a man die because he drowned or did he die because he suffered a heart attack in the pool: that sort of thing. It offered me the beginning of an education that any crime writer would find invaluable and I’m sure I’ll be drawing upon that knowledge whenever possible.  

Q: What do you hope readers will walk away with after reading The Madness of Mercury?

A: Most of all, I hope readers will simply enjoy the story and my protagonist’s adventures. The Madness of Mercury was inspired by the Jim Jones’ years in San Francisco, where I lived at the time. I’ve always been appalled and perplexed by the psychology of people who join cult movements and give up autonomy over their own lives. Writing Madness was a way to explore that phenomenon as a backdrop to the larger story.  

Q: Can readers hope for more Zodiac Mysteries indefinitely, or do you have a series end in sight?

A: I don’t have an end in sight at this point in time. Perhaps I’ll know when an ending feels ‘organic’ but for now, the city and the characters offer the opportunity tell a lot of stories. The next book to be released is a novella, Enter a Wizard, Stage Left, set before the series begins.  Several readers sent messages asking how Julia first became interested in astrology, how she found her wonderful twenty-pound black cat and in particular, many readers wanted to hear more about Gloria, Julia’s grandmother. So, as I stared at a blank page on my monitor, I thought, okay, perhaps a novella is a good idea, a way to answer all those questions. After that, the next two full-length books are just about ready to be released. And hopefully, I’ll continue to be inspired by new mysteries.  

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Connie di Marco is the author of the Zodiac Mysteries series. Her novels feature San Francisco astrologer Julia Bonatti, who never thought murder would be part of her practice. Her interest in astrology peaked while she was in college, following the sudden death of her mother. Originally from Boston, Connie now lives in Los Angeles, where she moved while pursuing a career in acting. Here, she continues to write Zodiac Mystery novels while also continuing to explore her passion of astrology.