Monday, January 19, 2015

Cozy Mystery Monday - Witch Way to Murder

Welcome to the first installment of "Cozy Mystery Monday." As I mentioned in my previous post, I love a good mystery and like them even better when not bogged down in detailed accounts of sex or violence. That tends to get in the way of the whodunit. My intention here is to introduce my readers to as many of the witchy/paranormal/magickal cozies as I can find. I'll discuss each book in a series separately as the writers worked hard on each and deserve proper recognition for every story they share.

I've decided to start with Witch Way to Murder, the first book my all-time favorite witchy series, the Ophelia and Abby Mysteries. It is a seven-novel series about Ophelia Jensen, a small Iowa town librarian and reluctant clairvoyant, and her grandmother Abby McDonald, a wise woman with powers passed down through many generations. They use their gifts to solve crimes and protect those they care about. In this first story, Ophelia is still emotionally crippled by a tragedy from four years past, shutting out everyone for fear of hurting someone or getting hurt herself. That all changed when Rick Davis strolls into town claiming to be a chemical salesman, asking tons of questions about several recent petty crimes, including theft of anhydrous ammonia. Shortly thereafter, Ophelia stumbles onto a dead body and the investigating begins. I don't want to go into too much detail because every part of this story was a joy to discover without having it spoiled. What made this stand out for me over other series was the protagonist's struggle with her abilities and her trust issues. She never once shows disrespect for her grandmother's magick. She only fears letting herself embrace what she can do after she feels her gifts failed her (as she believed it did in the tragedy four years earlier). The story never felt forced and all of the secondary characters were believable and (mostly) likeable. It's also nice when law enforcement is not portrayed as bumbling idiots, forcing the protagonists into action.The answer to whodunit was well-plotted and not immediately obvious, at least not to me. Most importantly, the magick was handled very well. No silliness, no gimmick, no wand waving and shooting out a spell. Just respect. I appreciate when an author can pull that off.

Favorite quote: When asked if she is not Wiccan then what is it, Abby responds, "It's hard to explain. Some might call it sympathetic or white magick, but I think that's too simplistic. It's a seeing in your mind, looking beyond the physical. It's an understanding of nature and the world around you. Every thing, every place, has energy, a power--some more than others. I'm just a conduit for that power, to pull it inside me and send it back out. The power isn't me. It's there with or without me."

Five smoking guns for a great plot and five wands for the respectful magick. Oh, and a bonus for Ophelia's cat Queenie and her dog Lady and not making romance a huge factor in the story. (the ratings system will have handy icons soon)