by Cynthia Chow
& Delia James
This week we have a review & giveaway of a fun magical mystery by Delia James, and a fun Halloween and cat related guest post by Delia. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of By Familiar Means. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
By Familiar Means: A Witch’s Cat Mystery by Delia James
Review by Cynthia Chow
Upon arriving in New Hampshire, no one was more surprised than Annabelle Amelia Blessingsound Britton to discover that she was a witch. Although she had often experienced a “Vibe” of past emotions when entering a new room, it wasn’t until she met the guardian coven witches of Portsmouth that Annabelle learned of her true heritage. Now that her grandmother is returning for a visit to the home she long ago fled, Annabelle hopes to mend the family feud between Grandma B.B. and Anabelle’s witchcraft mentor, Julia Parris.
Annabelle is also an underpaid freelance graphic artist, so before anything else she meets with new clients who may hire her to design a mural for their expanding Northeast Java coffee shop. Jake and Miranda have ulterior motives, as they hope to enlist Annabelle’s witchy aid in figuring out if their new building is haunted. Despite her disbelief in ghosts and reluctance to use her gifts without her mentor’s permission, Annabelle proves a little too successful in detecting the strong vibes being emitted from beneath the store. They discover not just a hidden tunnel leading to the Harbor’s Rest hotel, but a very real corpse.
The hotel’s talented and extremely mercurial new sous chef had gone missing, but apparently Jimmy Upton didn’t get far. Since Jake, Miranda, and Annabelle aren’t able to explain to the doubting police just why they were led down to the body, Lieutenant Blanchard is more than a little suspicious and intent on arresting them for the murder. Jake may have a bit of a criminal record in his past, but Jimmy’s own history is full of deceptions, confrontations, and questionable motives. Now that Annabelle has taken up a role as guardian of Portsmouth, she feels compelled to protect her new friends and use her talents to discover the truth.
The follow-up to an impressive debut continues to expand on this magical new world inundated with sympathetic and entertaining characters. Although the use of Annabelle’s and her witch friends’ abilities are fully displayed, they are used lightly to enhance their “real” investigations. Annabelle and the attractive “mundane” bartender Sean McNally question the long-time residents of Portsmouth, focusing on the town’s long association with smuggling, bootlegging, and piracy. Acting as a mediator between Grandma B.B. and Julia is no walk in the park, so it’s a blessing that Annabelle has the magical support of her familiar Alistair, as well as Julia’s miniature Dachshunds. Grandma B.B., the original Annabelle Mercy Blessingsound Britton, is herself a delight, roaring onto the page in a convertible 1950s Ford Galaxie, but regretful for the decisions that negatively affected her granddaughter and destroyed her friendship with Julia. The mystery is as intricate and integral to the novel as the element of magic, and readers will anxious await the next opportunity to dwell in this delightful town.
‘Tis the Season of the Cat
by Delia James
I love Halloween. I always have. I love the season around it, and I love the night itself.
With the exception of one year in Florida, I’ve lived my whole life in places where the differences between the seasons are dramatic. The first winters I remember were in Buffalo, New York, where the snow got so deep I got stuck jumping off the back porch, and had to stand there and shout until my mother came and pulled me out. Summers, by contrast, were emerald green, hot, and filled with mosquitoes. We swam in the lake, or the creek at my family’s property in the country.
But fall, fall was special. Fall was when the leaves swirled down the streets making little tornadoes on the pavement. The huge maple in front of our house turned a brilliant red. Our narrow, crowded street was full of houses put up cheaply back in the 1930s. The night was filled with light the color of the moon from a streetlamp. It was the only thing we saw at night back then, before the steel mills left town. The kids came around for “Begger’s Night,” a local ritual I was absolutely forbidden to take part in. This was the night before Halloween, when the bigger kids would dress up and go out early, to beg for extra candy. Mom disapproved, and we weren’t even allowed to answer the door. The kids banged and shouted, and eventually went away. It was strange and spooky, and ever so slightly dangerous.
But tonight was Halloween. And I was a cat.
Mom made the costume. Leopard-print footie pajamas were pressed into service. Mom found some matching fabric and made mitten paws with pink oilcloth palms. There was a hood too, with ears of the same pink oilcloth. A stuffed tail bobbed behind (and got in the way more than once). I got a plastic pumpkin to carry my candy, and after the pictures were taken, I got to go out into the dark.
I was too little to go out on my own, so Mom bundled into her corduroy coat and came with me. But I barely noticed her.
I was a cat.
I was mysterious and I belonged out in the dark street, under the rattling tree branches and silver light. The railroad embankment at the dead end of the street was a long, black hill, and the sidewalk was a highway for me and all the other creatures out for that one night. We raced from house to house; speed was of the essence because this wasn’t going to last. We were on the hunt. For candy, of course, but really we were out for the adventure. We were allowed out after dark when everything familiar turned strange, including ourselves. I could run. I could shout. I could chase after my brother and his friends. I could storm up to stranger’s doors, demand my due, race onto the next house and not have to wait for anyone. I could for this one night do exactly as I chose, and the rest of the world could just try to keep up with me. Or not. I didn’t have to care. I didn’t have to explain. I was free.
I was a cat.
To enter to win a signed copy of By Familiar Means, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “familiar,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 8, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.
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