Ryan Collins reviews Madam Tulip by David Ahern.
As the daughter of the seventh son of a seventh son, Derry O’Donnell is kinda-sorta gifted with psychic powers . . . a little. Unfortunately, nobody wants to pay for advice from an out of work, mildly clairvoyant actress who sounds like she’s named after a cop bar. So, to pay the bills, Derry invents the persona of the wise and mysterious Madam Tulip, psychic to the rich and famous. When a rapper dies under mysterious circumstances, Derry goes from out of work actress turned well-intentioned con artist, to amateur sleuth on the trail of a mystery that takes her through the high stakes worlds of fashion, celebrity gossip, drugs, and murder.
Ahern’s novel starts out slow and the action, such as it is, takes some time to pick up. But the real charm of this story lies not in the suspense that most mystery novels rely on, but on the witty prose and quirky tone of the dialogue, which bring the reader headlong into Derry’s world. The characters are unique, and range from eccentric to just plain over the top, though at no point did any of them feel artificial. Though Madam Tulip is a very funny and lighthearted novel, the laughs never come at the expense of the drama. This is very much a tongue-in-cheek poke at both the “celebrity industry” that has taken over pop culture, and at the nature of fame and ambition.
Ahern keeps the laughs coming from beginning to end, while never straying too far from the suspenseful tone which surrounds the central mystery. His characters are endearing and interact with a subtle humor which underlies the more overt comedic tones of the author’s prose. Madam Tulip is a feel good novel that grounds itself in deeper issues. Derry’s clairvoyance is something alien, but the issues that she deals with are those that we are all familiar with.
I would recommend this book to those who enjoy lighthearted mysteries with quirky albeit over the top characters. If you’ve ever found yourself musing that Bridget Jones or Sex and the City could use a bit of paranormal murder, then Madam Tulip may be the book for you.