The 5th Witch
Paperback, $7.99 (review based on advance reading copy)
Review by Sheila Merritt
“Nothing good can come out of this, if witches have teamed up with mobsters.” Who would want to challenge such words, or such a premise? If one is of this mindset, then Graham Masterton’s latest novel will provide a great diversion. It is a romp which name drops sites and celebrities of Los Angeles, while focusing on the occult and organized crime. This is sort of Don Corleone meets the dames of The Craft.
Dan, the LAPD cop who is the book’s protagonist, suffers from guilt. While this is no new concept, Dan has a background which serves the story well: His dad was an illusionist/magician, which gives the policeman some insight into magic. The cop also has the benefit of a witchy woman who lives downstairs in his building. She is, to no surprise, attractive and gifted in occult arts. It is inevitable that her apartment gets targeted for attack by the witches who have allied themselves with the mob figures: “Dan realized the entire room was thickly carpeted with maggots, thousands and thousands of maggots, and that the walls were crawling with maggots, too, which occasionally dropped off onto the floor.”
While there are many such unsettling images in the novel, they are balanced with a touch of satire. Spago, the famous restaurant of renowned chef Wolfgang Puck, is the setting of a confrontation between the mobsters, the witches who empower them, and the Hollywood elite. After said confrontation, the witches and mobsters emerge victorious, which prompts one restaurant patron to vow: “If you think I’m ever coming to Spago again, you’re seriously deluded … Wolfgang Puck is going to hear from my lawyers.”
Abuse of power is the theme of the book, which is taken to extremes by the witches and their employers. To make a point, the most powerful of the witches renders a portrait of power, potent in its blatant blood bath imagery: “Bloody fragments of rat were splattered across the black-and-white marble like a grisly parody of a Jackson Pollock painting — teeth, tails, quivering hind legs, and scarlet intestines.”
Graham Masterton has a jolly good time mingling power, both physical and supernatural, into a toxic treatise about abusive aggression and willful witchery. This is a super, if superficial, supernatural story.