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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Karma Rising by Rita Graham is a paranormal mystery novel centered around Ceeoni Jones, the new theater manager of a venue with a long-established and rich history. Ceeoni takes a leap of faith when she is offered the position at Starcross Theater, picking up her life and moving over 2,000 miles away after accepting the job. Within a near heartbeat, a body is discovered on the premises and it kicks off an investigation into the newly coined 'Starcross Slasher'. However, this isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that a violent death has haunted the venue. What does occur for the first time, to her knowledge, is Ceeoni getting a strange feeling, followed by flashing visions, that she'd been to Starcross Manor before. Told through alternating timelines that converge on different points of view, Graham weaves the curious paradox of past lives and an anthology of events wrapped up in a tight murder mystery that transcends time through the only true eternal constant: the soul.
As the sister of a past-life regression practitioner, I was drawn to Karma Rising by Rita Graham almost immediately. The topic fascinates me and I am glad that as the application of therapy begins to build traction, so too do the novels that employ it as a significant plot driver. The characters are exceptionally well defined and the settings are depicted in meticulous detail. Karma Rising isn't a boiling page-turner; it is a slow simmering burn that deserves to be read at the pace Graham has contextualized it in. It is also a lot to unpack as the paragraphing of both narrative and dialogue can be on the dense side, but Graham does well with packaging a lot of information into a book that is already uniquely strong. As the mother to daughters of color, I am so incredibly happy when a story comes along with a strong, intelligent, and capable black woman with professional drive and a grasp on her personal power, which she displays through a profound embodiment of agency. This stands in contrast to characters such as Leticia Starcross Bramwell, who is also strong, intelligent, and capable but does not have any agency, stating: “Her consent was an unnecessary formality. Everyone knew she had no choice in the matter.” The irony in this nuanced perspective is what makes Graham so successful in building her story, which is most definitely worth a read.