Somehow, Juliet Blackwell manages to combine witches, vintage clothing, history, humor, romance, murder, and a serious evil threat in a marvelous story, A Cast-Off Coven. This isn't a lighthearted cozy witchcraft mystery. It's a story with a great deal of depth.
Lily Ivory was introduced in Secondhand Spirits, a story that took place just a few months before A Cast-Off Coven. After a troubled youth, and a period traveling the world, the witch has settled in San Francisco where she owns a vintage clothing shop, Aunt Cora's Closet. And, in the short time she's lived there, she's gathered a group of friends, a small coven of witches, the art student who works for her, a powerful male witch, the reporter she's interested in, and, of course, her familiar foisted on her by Aiden Rhodes. Oscar, the goblin who takes the form of a miniature pot-bellied pig, adds the humorous touches to the story.
And, Lily's life could use a little humor right now. The students at the San Francisco School of Fine Arts, including Lily's employee, Maya, are complaining of noises, and a ghost. Lily isn't really in the psychic business. As she says, she's "One bona fide witch who could not communicate with the dead, much less with the undead, if her life depended on it." But she's willing to check out the school in exchange for a trunk of Victorian-era clothing found in a closet. Lily finds much more than a trunk in that closet. Someone has been messing with magic, and there's a strong presence of evil that's hanging over the third floor and that closet. When a man dies from a tumble down the stairs in that building, it's hard to know if it was murder, or magic.
Lily may have to call on her friends for help, including a homicide detective who questions why she's been in town for three months, and involved in two suspicious deaths. And, she might run her chance for romance with the reporter, Max, by taking responsibility for dealing with the forces at the school. But, a witch who has never had a home, now has friends and allies who need her, and she's determined to shoulder her responsibilities as a powerful witch.
Secondhand Spirits was an excellent introduction to Lily Ivory. But, A Cast-Off Coven shows a witch who is growing in power, and friendship. Blackwell is writing a series that manages to demonstrate the best of genreblending, filled with fascinating characters and a good mystery, but adding magic, romance, and, even some fascinating history of San Francisco. A Cast-Off Coven is genreblending at its best.
Note: Juliet Blackwell will be appearing at the Velma Teague Library for Authors @ The Teague on June 24 at 2 p.m. as part of the panel, Women Who Kill.
Juliet Blackwell's website is www.julietblackwell.net
A Cast-Off Coven by Juliet Blackwell. Penguin Group(USA), ©2010. ISBN 9780451230492(paperback), 336p.
FTC Full Disclosure - The author, and the publisher, both sent me books in hopes I would review it.