Annie's mother has special powers.Annie's mother is a master at drawing out secrets.Annie's mother is the one and only, the irresistible Madam Caterina.Annie and her mother come to Peach Hill, the latest in a string of towns where Mama sets herself up as a spiritual adviser who can put people in contact with the "dearly departed." Fifteen-year-old Annie is Mama's invisible secret weapon—she gathers important information about clients by pretending to be an idiot. After all, people will say anything in front of an idiot.But Annie isn't invisible, she's smart as a whip, and she longs to break out of this role and into a real life with friends and school. Annie may be under Mama's spell—but not for long.
Jocelyn (Mable Riley) delivers a lively historical yarn set in New York State during Prohibition and the waning years of the spiritualist movement. Young Annie serves as the clever and feisty assistant to her mother, a clairvoyant and spiritual adviser, as they move from town to town to escape exposure and the law. When they arrive in Peach Hill, N.Y., however, the ruse begins to unravel. Annie, now 15, must pretend to be "dimwitted" and to eavesdrop on the townsfolk for the sake of the act. The tension becomes palpable when Annie develops other plans for herself that include a boy named Sammy Sloane, honesty and a normal life (her clever plot to escape idiocy is inspired). Yet the heroine finds it difficult to extricate herself from her mother's tantalizing sphere of influence. Annie makes a convincing heroine, and a set of unique and sympathetic characters swirl around her, including a troubled but clear-thinking daughter of a preacher and a seemingly severe but insightful truant officer. Others, such as Peg the housekeeper and Sammy, serve the story line but seem too na ve to be fully credible. Nonetheless, the gripping intrigue and pacing of the story will engage young readers as they root for Annie to break free and become her own person. Ages 9-12.