Gina “Tinkerbell” Miyoko, P. I., the diminutive protagonist of my newly-relased debut crime novel, THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER, packs more than a spectrum blue Taurus to protect her. Thanks to her Mom, Nadia—who is a folklorist and cultural anthropology professor at San Francisco State University (SFSU)—she’s well-quipped with an obereg for every occasion.
Obereg? Is that some sort of breakfast roll, you may ask?
No, and I’ll let Gina explain.
This literally means “protector” in The Mother’s Tongue and, like the sweater and vitamins, is something Mom will not let me leave home without. Not that she’d admit to being superstitious. But with a PhD in Russian folklore, a fascination with arcana, and a vast collection of materia magica from all over the world, she views packing an amulet as a practical consideration. Better safe than sorry, yada, yada.
I reach into my jeans pocket and retrieve the obereg du jour — the smallest of a set of nesting babushka dolls that have spent some time under the altar at Our Lady of Kazan.
As if she does not trust a nesting doll to protect her daughter, given the dangers of her chosen profession, Nadia Eliska Arkhangelski Miyoko has also given Gina a Saint Boris medal. This is no arbitrary guardianship; Gina was born on Boris’s feast day. Besides the medal and the ”obereg du jour,” Gina also carries a wire from the taillight of an aging Cadillac that she credits with saving her life.
Gina’s dad, Edmund, occasionally gets into the act, as well. His solution to Gina’s security issues—a mingei (Japanese protective amulet) in the form of a tanuki.
Again, I’ll let Gina explain:
Now, anyone who’s ever become addicted to Mario Brothers video games knows that a tanuki is a cute little pot-bellied critter that looks a lot like a raccoon. In fact, tanuki essentially means “raccoon dog.” This is not to be confused, mind you, with Mario in a raccoon suit. The tanuki is an ancient and legendary bit of Japanese culture. Mario in a raccoon suit, not so much. The tanuki is a shape-shifter, so I suspected Dad thought this was an appropriate mingei for a private detective.
In addition to all of these protective devices, Gina often finds that her mother has gone to greater lengths to ensure her safety—sometimes with Holy Water.
I was surprised to see Mom standing next to Boris, apparently in conversation with it. She saw me, gave me a wave of her hand and continued on down the dock to her place. I surveyed the bike, wondering what she’d had to say to it, and if she’d managed to conceal any additional ‘backup’ on it somewhere. That was when I realized the candy apple red finish of the rear fender was dappled with beads of water. Mom was nothing if not thorough.
Gina would argue she’s more than thorough. When she notices the Holy Water her mom keeps in the refrigerator is diminishing, she is prompted to inquire….
“Mom, have you been blessing things again?”
I closed the fridge. “Mom…”
She wouldn’t look at me.
“Mom, what have you blessed now?”
“Only your gun,” she said conversationally.
“Nadia!” Dad exclaimed. “You shouldn’t put water on a gun.”
She shrugged. “A sprinkling only. It doesn’t take much. It was a very small prayer.”
You’d think that with all this protection, the redoubtable Tinkerbell’s life would be danger-free. You’d be wrong. But will she get into more trouble than “a perky little private eye with three amulets and a Holy Water blessing” can handle?
I hope you’ll read THE ANTIQUITIES HUNTER to find out just how much trouble Gina Miyoko, P.I. can get into.
(P.S.: The Holy Water in the decorative red bottle is actually from the Glastonbury Well in Somerset, England and was presented to me some years ago by a dear friend who visits the site whenever she can.)