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HIGH PRIESTESS by David Skibbins

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By Theresa de Valence - Posted on 11 April 2007

HIGH PRIESTESS’s protagonist, Warren Ritter, is a bipolar smartass with a few secrets, only one of which is his collection of multiple identities, each with its own driver’s licence and legal residence. Warren is a kickass turd—definitely not someone you want living next door—at least for most of the story, he feels dangerously out of control. Horrors come out of the walls, Warren’s past seeps into his present and he’s involuntarily plunged into the middle of an inquiry into attempted murder.

As a rule, I’m not fond of one-liner remarks—I don’t find that kind of humour funny—but this author has ways of stringing snide impressions one on top of another, sometimes they’re preposterous and sometimes witty and wise, until you just can’t take it, you snort and a laugh escapes. For instance, Warren is an imposter psychic who makes his living giving Tarot card readings to an unsuspecting public. Warren is well aware he is a fraud, but he sees his role as somewhere between television and therapy, something indispensible to a modern Berkeley.

Warren doesn’t talk about being bipolar as an illness. He talks like it’s a gift, a prize, for a select few. His descriptions of his state of mind are captivating and involving, from taking his regular medicine doses, to his powerful manic states, to his nearly overwhelming depression. There is something very sweet about his waking up to guilt-inspiring angels perched on the foot of his bed. And when he screws up (which he does fairly often), he thinks (in a conversational way) about whether he should kill himself now or later.

HIGH PRIESTESS is my first David Skibbins, so I had hopes this book would stand on its own, without the series holding it up. I think that goal has been accomplished. I’m definitely interested in Warren Ritter, and I want to know what else he does. Usually, I skim reviews because most people give away too much of the plot for my taste, but I happened upon one where a reader had enjoyed Warren’s great motorcycle ride. I do hope it was not this book, because I am underwhelmed by Warren’s motorcycling in this story. There are a lot of guys I’ve known who think that because a bike cost a lot of money and is painted in hot colours, that’s enough. Not me; give me a real bike ride every time.

Although there are other characters in the story, they aren’t very deep. I had some other quibbles about the storyline, but they are essentially minor. They won’t impede your enjoyment of the story.

If you like mysteries where the storyline mostly follows the thoughts in the protagonist’s head, and where he views his place in the world, then you’ll really like HIGH PRIESTESS.