Book Review: A Spell of Murder
A Spell of Murder (A Lost Maidens Loch Mystery, Book #1)
A Spell of Murder was published on October 3rd, 2019. I received an ARC from NetGalley, but as always, all thoughts are my own.
My review contains spoilers regarding love interests and characters.
In the sleepy town of Lost Maidens Loch, people sometimes disappear…
Down a quiet lane in town sits a little shop full of oddities you’d probably miss if you weren’t looking for it. This is Love’s Curiosities Inc., and its owner, Temerity Love, is sought by experts all over the world for her rare and magical gift: the ability to find lost things and learn their stories.
When Lost Maidens’ pretty local school teacher is found murdered by a poisoned cup of tea, a strange antique hand mirror is discovered nearby. Temerity – with the help of witchy sister Tilda, their cats Scylla and Charybdis and the lovingly eccentric local townspeople – is determined to divine the story behind the mirror and its part in Miss Molly Bayliss’ untimely death.
If only grumpy out-of-towner Angus Harley of Lost Maidens Police wasn’t on the scene. Temerity can’t solve the crime without him, but he’s distracting, and in more ways than one. Can this unconventional duo solve the most mysterious murder ever to blight Lost Maidens Loch before the killer strikes again?
From the very start, Kennedy Kerr inflicts mild suspicion and wonder into the minds of her readers with A Spell of Murder. The book is filled with small-town drama and gossip, historical mystery, romantic tension, and a balance of detective logic and family magic. While the delightful cover is a bit misleading as to the contents of this first installment of Lost Maidens Loch Mystery series, the types of witchcraft present in the book are anything but disappointing.
Which brings me to Temerity and Tilda Love. The latter is a bit of a shut-in, and is actually outwardly shunned by citizens of the town because of who she is. But she is confident and covets her individuality, and makes it a point to prevent Temerity from losing herself to the past. Tilda is identified as an occultist, which in Kennedy Kerr’s terms means she gains her knowledge and skills through nature, books, and learning, while Temerity is labeled as a mystic because of her strong intuition and visions. They inherited their shop from their now deceased parents, who were also occultists. Their relationship with each other and the town is a central plot point, although more attention is given to Temerity’s power and societal role. She is apparently known around the world by antique dealers and historical organizations, because when she touches an object she can see its past and gain perspective on where and/or who it came from.
This power is fortunately respected by the town’s police inspector, Kim Hyland, who allows her to be involved in the latest mysterious death since a strange mirror was found at the crime scene. Inspector Hyland is a superb character; he effectively balances his calm, inviting, and understanding demeanor with taking his job and the safety of Lost Maidens Loch seriously.
Temerity Love’s demeanor, on the other hand, is more obnoxious than not. Her infatuation with other people’s appearances is a little astounding; she can’t seem to avoid thinking about Angus’ physique when she’s in his presence, and when Temerity meets the murdered teacher’s roommate she launches into a quick reflection about both of their bodies and how she herself looked in school. It’s all a bit off-putting, and while I think Kennedy Kerr wrote those descriptions in order to build upon our knowledge of Temerity’s character, it didn’t really work in that way.
Temerity also thinks about her lost love, Patrick, quite often. Her grief is understandable and adds a little tension to the “will they or won’t they?” romantic story line between her and Angus, however these musings and others often felt awkwardly placed within the narrative. And most of the time they didn’t add anything more to the story in terms of additional or necessary information – it’s like the author didn’t trust her readers to remember Temerity was dealing with grief and sadness, so she kept adding reminders. Kennedy Kerr did such an effective job at individualizing every other character, that for Temerity’s traits to be written in such a scattered way was a bit puzzling and distracting.
My personal annoyances with Temerity aside, this book did keep me hooked from the very start. Kennedy Kerr can definitely create an affecting atmosphere; with building and house descriptions, weather, and a detailed landscape, the mystical and speculative feelings are consistently present throughout the book. There are a lot of details and sub-plots to keep track of as the mystery unfolds and becomes more complicated, but the story is excellently paced; admirers of whimsical small-town settings, stories involving witchcraft, and well-developed mystery full of drama can come together to enjoy this book. Even my disdain for Temerity didn’t stop me from following the story to the very end to find out what really happened (and why).
There is no word on when the next Lost Maidens Loch mystery will be released, but I will be keeping my eye out because I’m certainly curious to see what happens next in that little town.