Monday, September 19, 2016

Cozy Mystery Monday - Kitchen Witch Mysteries

I'm back for another installment of my book review series. Two weeks in a row! Isn't it amazing? :) This week's review for the first book in Kitchen Witch series was originally posted last week on my Goodreads account but I wanted to share it here as well. It's also my first review of a self published series. So here goes...

Miss Spelled by Morgana Best starts the series with the protagonist Amelia Spelled inheriting a house and a bakery from an aunt she never really knew after the worst day in her already sad life. When the town jerk dies in the bakery after eating a cupcake she'd made, naturally Amelia started out as the prime suspect. Throughout the story she discovers her newly acquired house is a bit odd, her aunt was a witch (an unexpected that gift Amelia has too), and all of her aunt's friends are witches. Oh, and she has to overcome a serious inability to cook to run her new bakery.

The story had potential and might improve as the series progresses and the characters become more than caricatures. I know some other reviews (on Goodreads and on Amazon) took issue with the magick aspect of the story. As the protagonist is SO new to even the basic concept of witches (someone had to explain what a familiar is), it's not as jarring as if she'd grown up as a witch her whole life. But it does overwhelm the mystery. The one older guy running the show did feel a bit like he was borrowed from Buffy. He even speaks with the same proper tone as Giles. The part I liked about the magic was the explanation of Amelia's untapped fire elemental energy potential and how her buried emotions from a depressing childhood were manifesting when she cooked, catching everything she made on fire. Emotions can affect our energies so that made sense.

What took away from the story for me was the lack of build up for the mystery itself. The victim and the suspects all come off as extremely two dimensional as Amelia never even has a decent conversation with or about them. Most investigations in a cozy need that one-on-one contact (seeing body language, gauging emotions) with the suspects so we can take a stab at who the killer is right along with the protagonist. Alibis are never established. Facts are never ascertained. Digging through trash and tailing the suspects for one day does not an effective investigation make. And that is mostly done "off screen" by the secondary characters so we have no detective work done by our heroine. Even the evolution of the suspect list was haphazard. The cops in the story are a side note at best. I also don't think it's a great plan to actually use the phrase "red herring" to try and suggest a clue might be a red herring. The mystery felt more like an afterthought as Amelia got settled into her new life as a baker and a witch in a new town.

I've never read any of the author's other works. I'm still debating on whether to try the next book in this series to see if character development improves. I really wanted to like this but the lack of attention to the mystery and the silly idea of using Amelia's odd house to ascertain guilt or innocence of most of the suspects was a bit beyond acceptable suspension of disbelief for me. Better to do a proper investigation when possible than depending solely on magick (which didn't actually help) to solve the crime.