Monday, May 4, 2015

Cozy Mystery Monday - Spell Booked

Cozy Mystery Monday is back after a bit of a break for mundane muggle stuff (the semester of homework ended yesterday). I debated whether to continue with the Ophelia and Abby Mysteries or to introduce another series. I've decided to alternate. Today I'm introducing the first book in a new series. Next week I'll go back to Ophelia. Then another new or new-ish series and back to Ophelia until I've reviewed all seven. The paranormal cozies have exploded onto the scene and there are so many new authors and series I want to explore. At the same time, I don't want to neglect the long running series that got me hooked in the first place. Now, to the new stuff!

This week I'm reviewing the first book in the new Retired Witches Mysteries, "Spell Booked" by national bestselling author couple Joyce and Jim Lavene. They've been writing cozies individually and as a couple for at least fifteen years, so they seem to do well. This is also the first of their books I've read so far.

The basic plot on this is a small coven of older witches, comprised of Olivia (the diva), Elsie (the ditz), and Molly (the practical one), are looking to retire as their powers are waning. The witches need to find replacements to inherit the coven and their book of shadows. They have one witch in their sights already, a librarian named Dorothy. Before they can make contact, Olivia is murdered. Naturally, the remaining witches and their new protege must find out who killed Olivia (with help from her spirit) without letting on to anyone (including Molly's husband who is a cop) they are witches.

From here the story gets a little iffy for me. The particular version of "witchdom" presented seems patched together in order to further the story without much cohesion or forethought. It's part modern Pagan and part Hollywood witchcraft. The women seem intelligent one moment and completely flighty the next. I think my biggest problems with this were the new witch, Dorothy (who is a blithering idiot most of the time), and the "Witches Council" that comes across as useless or adversarial by turns. Oh, and the idea of a witch losing her powers as she gets older. As someone heading into her Crone years, I was bothered (read insulted) by the idea that age meant weakness or loss of power. The women could no longer perform the most basic of spells without the spell backfiring on them. And the waning of power was not balanced by the wisdom we gain with age. It also included my biggest pet peeve when portraying modern witches; the instant spell. This is not Harry Potter. We don't wave a wand or light a candle and POOF! Spells take time, patience, and much more effort on the part of the caster. And the outcome is not guaranteed simply because we want it.

I didn't care for the constant need for absolute secrecy about the magick for fear of reprisal. Not from the muggles. From their own council. Yes, I know it's mainly to protect the witches from ignorance and prejudice. But a witch should be able to confide in her spouse about her magick. That aspect felt contrived to create conflict between characters that would otherwise have no drama. Not even the cat familiars could elevate this story for me. All in all, I'm not sure I'll bother with the rest of the series. And I'll have to think long and hard before I decide whether I'll try anything else by the Lavenes.

 for a whodunit that tried to keep you guessing. The who in the whodunit, while unexpected, had no lead in for the reader to even hazard a guess.

Two brooms for a magick system that might improve as the series progresses *crossing fingers* here. Though I'll never care much for the insinuation that old witches should just give up and retire to Boca.

2015 Witches &a Witchcraft Reading Challenge