In the Company of Witches
In the Company of Witches (An Evenfall Witches B&B Mystery) was published on October 19th, 2021 (Penguin Random House). The second book, When the Crow’s Away is set to be published in April, 2022.
My review does not contain any spoilers.
Content Warning: Spousal death and related grief, quick mention of blood, murder.
For four hundred years, the Warren witches have used their magic to quietly help the citizens of the sleepy New England town of Evenfall thrive. There’s never been a problem they couldn’t handle. Then Constance Graves dies while staying at the witches’ bed-and-breakfast. At first, it seems like an accident, but it soon becomes clear that there’s something more sinister at work, and Aunt Nora is shaping up to be the prime suspect.
There’s nothing Brynn Warren wants more than to prove Nora’s innocense, and it hurts knowing that even two years ago it might have been easier. Brynn, after all, is a witch of the dead—a witch who can commune with ghosts. But she hasn’t used her powers since her husband died, and isn’t even sure she still can. Brynn will just have to hope that her aunts’ magic and her own investigative skills will lead her to answers—and maybe back to the gift she was ready to give up forever.
From the very beginning, the reader gets a taste of the main characters’ personalities and mannerisms—while there is a murder to be solved, this is really a story about them. As for the supporting characters, Auralee Wallace wastes no time with drab introductions, rather, the reader is plunged into the lives of the cast as the plot moves along. And what a cast it is: in addition to the Warren witches (Aunt Nora, Aunt Izzy, Brynn, and Uncle Gideon), neighbors, miscellaneous townspeople, historic figures, and small shop employees fill the pages with charm, intrigue, and clues for solving the murder of Constance Graves. This can lead to some confusion if the reader isn’t paying close attention to who is who, but the large number of characters is truly not a detriment—they all have such specific voices, personalities, and roles that benefit the story’s puzzle.
As with any witchy book, the lore or parameters of the magic are important to consider. Auralee Wallace does a great job here, laying out the types of witches and their magical abilities in ways that flow with the narrative (rather than just info dumping). Aunt Izzy’s specialties shine in the foods and potions she makes; Aunt Nora is particularly adept in plant, herb, and flower-related magic; and Brynn and Uncle Gideon’s abilities should be discovered not in a review, but by reading the story, since the abstract and complex qualities are vital to the narrative. Any reader interested in witch familiars will be pleased; there are two main animal characters that provide entertainment and comfort to both the characters and reader.
Additionally, the seasonal, regional, and architectural charm of this story did not disappoint. A cozy small town with historic architecture and small shops created the perfect setting for a story like this. It’s a welcome addition to the genre of witchy mysteries, and is the perfect stormy autumn afternoon or chilly weekend read. Everything promised in the synopsis can be found throughout the pages amidst absorbing details and a constant mysterious air, as well as an obscure fairy tale reference that covers a major theme of the book (The Mouse, the Bird, and the Sausage). The murderer and conspirators are exposed with delightfully dramatic witchcraft, and the conclusion satisfies while keeping the reader interested in where the sequel will go.