Friday, January 02, 2015

Spell Booked - Joyce and Jim Lavene

Spell Booked
A Retired Witches Mystery
Joyce and John Lavene
Berkley Prime Crime
It’s not easy getting older.  Eyesight is less sharp, hearing range is reduced, reflexes slow.  For a witch, even magic can wane.  Maybe not if you’re a very powerful witch.  But, for run-of-the-mill, average practicing witches, magic power begins to fade with age.  Caution must be used even when casting the simplest of spells, because it’s so easy for the magic to go wrong.  After decades together, the three witches in Molly’s coven must admit the sad but inevitable truth: the time to retire from magic is close at hand. 
But before they retire, they need to bring in new witches, to pass on their spell book and their magic.  Unfortunately, none of the three have children with magic.  They do have their eye on a possible recruit, though.  Dorothy Lane, an unassuming librarian in town, clearly has magic.  Just as clearly, she doesn’t know it.  While witches are everywhere, they hide that part of themselves from those without magic.  Even spouses and children.  Hard experience has shown this to be the safest way.  So, the ladies must contrive to meet Dorothy, broach the subject of witches, then convince her she has magic.  Oh, and ask her to join their coven.  Not too tall an order.
Olivia, an air witch, is probably the most free-spirited of the women.  She never married, but she still loves men.  In fact, when a young male witch arrives at their shop, Smuggler’s Arcane, Olivia is flirting with him in no time.  The two then leave together.  That night, Molly awakes with a start.  A ghost light is floating in her room.  The phone rings.  Olivia is dead.  Found in an alley with her throat cut, long before her time.  Molly’s husband, Joe, will be the investigating detective on the case, so she can keep her ears and eyes open.  But that doesn’t seem like doing enough, especially when they realize that Olivia’s home has been ransacked and their spell book is gone.  Both Molly and Elsie are determined to catch the killer and thief, using all that remains of their talents.
This is the first entry in a new series, and it is delightful.  These authors have a wonderful way with weaving the supernatural into what otherwise might be a regular cozy mystery so that both elements are the better for it.  Molly, Elsie, and Olivia are clearly life-long friends.  Their easy banter and familiarity with one another’s history attests to it.  They each have lives outside of magic, but have used their shop as a touchstone for themselves and other practitioners in the area.  The idea of keeping this secret from her husband has always bothered Molly, and she will reach a point where she must decide which is more important: secrecy or safety.
Magic can exciting, and it can be scary, and it’s both here.  These ladies were not powerful witches, even in youth.  They’re up against someone who is far stronger, and obviously willing to get his hands dirty. The murder happens quite early, so the focus of the plot is on solving the crime without ‘outing’ witches.  The plot has a satisfying number of twists, turns, and diversions.  The supporting cast is a varied group of individuals, many of whom I hope to see again in future volumes.  There’s a thread or two left dangling at the end of this, promising much more to come.  If you enjoy cozy mysteries written on the paranormal side, you should love this one.  (Also see their Missing Pieces Mysteries.)
Rating: 8
December 2014
ISBN# 978-0-425-26825-4 (paperback)


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