Reviewer: Connie Payne
Title: Secondhand Spirits - 1st in the Witchcraft Mystery series
Author: Juliet Blackwell
Release Date: July 2009
Genre/Sub-genre: (Cozy)Paranormal Mystery
Year/Setting: Present day, San Francisco CA
Overall Rating: 4.0
Sexual Content Rating: None
Language (Profanity/Slang) Content Rating: None/Mild
Violent Content Rating: Moderate
Juliet's Website: www.julietblackwell.net
Lily Ivory has been feeling adrift and alone. Being a witch can do that if one doesn’t use their powers for personal gain or influence, if they feel different. Now, however, the loneliness has caught up with her, she wants to be part of a community, have friends. Opening her vintage clothing store, Aunt Cora’s Closet, in San Francisco is a good start to that dream. No one has to know she’s a witch; she doesn’t really use her powers except for protection charms and the like. Right now she’s happy enough to run her store and hunt for vintage clothing.
It’s the events that happen during such a clothing hunt that will call upon all of Lily’s skills…Frances Potts, an elderly woman, has dozens and dozens of vintage dresses, suits, and hats for Lily and Maya (her clothing connection) to sift through. Lily’s so glad Maya brought her here. She was quite happy digging through the many vintage treasures. Until screams were heard. Jessica, a young neighbor and friend of Frances is kidnapped, and not by any ordinary kidnapper, but by La Llorona who most think of as an urban legend.
Lily feels compelled to do what she can. A necessary first, a protection spell for Frances, then she’ll find a way to get Jessica back to her family. Unfortunately Frances is killed by forces stronger than Lily’s protection spell. Something went horribly wrong. Questions arise and soon it becomes obvious that things are darker and not as they seemed.
Lily realizes she needs help. She turns to the one who she should be most wary of; Aidan, a male witch, who is seemingly in the know about all supernatural goings on in San Francisco. When he first stepped in her shop "welcoming" her with the gift of a familiar that she’s never needed nor desired Lily felt a shift. Something wasn’t quite right…She knows she shouldn’t ask him for help as the price will be steep, yet she does. In fact she goes to great lengths to find a way to get Jessica back from La Llorona. She unselfishly puts herself in grave danger.
First you must know that the subject matter—Lily being a practicing witch, cauldron-brewing-spells, incantations, evil voodoo/witchcraft forces—is outside my comfort zone. It was a bit difficult for me to really immerse myself in the story…However, Ms. Blackwell does an excellent job at putting the reader like me at ease through Lily. Lily doesn’t want to offend or scare anyone. She simply wants to create a home, form friendships, run a successful business and in the process help who she can. If the only way is by witchcraft, then that’s what she’ll do.
Descriptions of both Lily’s surroundings and the spell-brewing and incantations are vivid and detailed. Lily is so easy to like and feel compassion for. Secondary characters such as Maya and Bronwyn and even Oscar are well-developed and are as varied in personalities as can be; along with Lily, they create a good, if not quirky force-to-be-reckoned-with team. Bits of humor alleviate the intenseness of the plot. Twists and turns and questions take the reader on a jumbled and mysterious journey. One which has them furrowing their brow in concentration and trying to keep up with Lily and her sleuthing and the clues that are shadowed and cloaked.
Even with my comfort zone being stretched I look forward to the next Juliet Blackwell novel. I’m interested and anxious to see where she’s taking this series.
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