by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of 2 fun mysteries for your February reading-one magical and one a spin off-Coached to Death: The Life Coach Mystery by Victoria Laurie and Potions are for Pushovers: An Eleanor Wilde Mystery by Tamara Berry. We also have links to order them from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Coached to Death: The Life Coach Mystery by Victoria Laurie
Review by Cynthia Chow
In this debut series by the author of the Psychic Eye and Ghost Hunter mystery series, sidekicks finally get their moment to take center stage. The sister of psychic FBI consultant Abby Cooper, Catherine Cooper, is using her share of the fifty-million-dollar sale of her marketing firm to set up a new business as a life coach in the new building she just purchased and is renovating (her louse of an ex conveniently filed for divorce just in time to take his half). She is assisted in this by Gilley Gillespie, who she last met involving some crime-solving shenanigans with his business partner, professional ghost hunter M.J. Holliday.
In an act displaying her usual self-confidence and refusal to be bullied, Cat attends a luncheon hosted by her nemesis Heather Holland, the new neighbor who has basically declared war on “Chez Cat” by filling endless complaints and slowing down all the renovations. When it becomes clear that Heather’s invitation was a nefarious plan to humiliate Cat, the aspiring life coach refuses to be cowed and instead very loudly declares war upon the Mean Girl. While admirable, it’s an act Cat will come to regret the following morning when Detective Shepherd from the East Hampton Police Department knocks on her door accusing her of bashing in Heather’s head with a punchbowl.
A high-powered attorney quickly gets Cat out of the hoosegow, but he warns that neither the police nor the DA are about to let her stray far out of their sights. So while she may not have the psychic intuitive powers of her sister, Cat believes that her intuition and the experience that made her a successful businesswoman will be more than enough to help her track down a killer. After all, she also has the aid of a stress-eating Gilley, who has countless times served as a somewhat unwilling Number Two while MJ solved paranormal crimes. Cat manages to track down Heather’s many, many enemies while also juggling her new Cat’s Coaching Corner business rescuing a train wreck of a client. Cat’s well-intentioned advice to Listen, Learn, Lend hilariously leads to Emma Kirkland becoming homeless, jobless, and carless, but the determined Cat is not about to let her client down. Add in an attractive mysterious renter, a sexy but suspicious cop, and even a possible assassin and you have an extraordinarily entertaining romp that defies expectations.
Who would have thought that these two side characters who often tested the patience of the heroines of the Ghost Hunter and Psychic Eye mysteries would prove to be so appealing when teamed together? Away from the paranormal element that had the ghost-phobic Gilley often acting like a very dramatic scaredy-cat, here he proves to be a standout when hacking social media accounts and wielding his trademark barbs and sharp wit. Cat’s not about to let a murder accusation stomp down her dream of becoming Oprah with her own books and talk shows, and with her possibly delusional optimism and relentless drive she proves to be an unstoppable amateur sleuth. That could also be because the Gail to her Oprah is just as impulsive and brash when investigating, and without anyone to hit the brakes, Gilley and Cat are just so much fun. The more danger and incriminating acts they commit, the more entertaining they become in what is sure to be yet another winning series from this outstanding author.
Potions are for Pushovers: An Eleanor Wilde Mystery by Tamara Berry
Review by Cynthia Chow
For someone who has made it a practice to not form close relationships or get too emotionally attached, Eleanor Wilde is slowly becoming a part of her new residence in the Sussex village. Despite being a non-believing witch hired to fake exorcise a ghost out of Castle Hartford, Eleanor has settled in as their go-to psychic-witch. Herb-enhanced shots of vodka are served out as potions for both human suitors and roaming pigs, but it’s one that she didn’t sell that is threatening to have her burned at the stake (not literally, at least). After getting shanghaied into representing the Hartford family at the village fete planning committee, Eleanor’s facetious remarks land her in the hot seat when the village grouch Sarah Blackthorne fatally collapses from poison. Banned from selling any of her potions until the definitive cause can be found – in addition to lacking a business license – Eleanor’s lack of finances make solving the crime and finding the culprit a necessity. Her literal rainy-day fund is at risk due to normal English weather and a leaking roof, and Eleanor’s pride prevents her from asking for help from her not-dating-but-not-not-dating friend Nicholas Hartford III.
Despite half of the village eying her suspiciously and believing that she cursed Sarah Blackthorne to death, Eleanor soon has her hands full with two eager young witch interns. Twelve-year-old Lenora MacDougal is applying to be an apprentice to fulfill a profession-shadowing assignment for school, while Nicholas’s eighteen-year-old niece continues to find Eleanor fascinating. Doing what she can to give the young women research tasks to hopefully keep them out of trouble, Eleanor also has to juggle sporadic input from her recently deceased sister Winnie. The once doubtful witch has adjusted to the dreamlike visits from her beloved sibling, and Eleanor finds that the hope placed on her own concoctions and (helped-along) magical outcomes are as healing and effective as “real” medicine. A possible Book of Spells, inheriting nephews, and committee full of Sarah’s enemies all lead to a gathering-of-suspects show-stopping reveal that the inner performer in Eleanor can truly appreciate.
Eleanor Wilde has quickly become one of my favorite fictional characters. The high medical costs of her comatose sister led Eleanor to use her observational and deductive skills to become a fake psychic, and now she wields those same talents to out-investigate local officials. The protective walls Eleanor had built around herself may have helped her to emotionally detach from the pain of slowly losing her sister, but they would doom her to a lonely and bleak existence. The surprisingly accepting vicar has become Eleanor’s best friend, and Nicholas’s sardonic humor and caustic remarks hide a warm heart just as fragile and vulnerable as Eleanor’s.
She is still the champion of hilarious observations, though, noting that the vicar follows reverse-vampire rules and is forced to let in visitors, encouraging her teen followers to go and take selfies or shoplift like normal teens, and proudly declaring that broken psychics are right two times a day. This second in the series is an outstanding blend of humor and sentimentality, presenting readers with a heroine who is learning to lower her defenses and allow the quirky Sussex villagers in. Original characters, clever plotting, and witty turns of phrases delivered by a reluctant witch make this an extremely satisfying and rewarding read.
To enter to win a copy of both books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “magic,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen February 8, 2020. U.S. residents only and you must be 18 or older to enter. If entering via email please include your mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted when the contest is over. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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