Putting on the Witch
A Retired Witches Mystery, Book #3
By Joyce and Jim Lavene
Author’s website: www.joyceandjimlavene.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
With their coven’s spell book still missing, Molly and Elsie—along with their ghostly friend Olivia, her daughter Dorothy, and her boyfriend Brian—are all on edge; especially now that Dorothy’s infamously wicked father is back in the picture. So when they receive an invitation to an exclusive Witches Ball, the ladies jump at the chance to dress up and have some fun.
The castle locale is spectacular and the party is hopping, but the festivities come to a swift end when a member of the Grand Council of Witches is murdered. With the whole place on lock down, the coven is determined to find the cunning killer, even with an angry council and a real Spanish Inquisitor breathing down their necks.
Putting on the Witch is the fantastic third book in the Retired Witches Mystery series by the prolific storytellers Joyce and Jim Lavene, and it is a whimsical, closed room-esque mystery that is sure to please readers who enjoy both a good whodunit and magic.
Molly, Elsie, and Olivia, who is now a ghost, are beginning to rethink their retirement plans because their magical powers are growing stronger since they welcomed Brian and Dorothy into their coven. And, of course, they are still looking for their spell book that went missing when Olivia was murdered (see book one, Spell Booked). The whole coven is taken off guard when Dorothy’s father Drago appears, and Olivia is greatly concerned since she made every effort over the years to keep Dorothy’s existence a secret from Drago. Having been outcast by the Grand Witch Council, he is bad news, and everyone is worried that he has nefarious reasons for coming to see Dorothy. It is also Brian’s birthday, and the coven members are excited to receive invitations from Brian’s family for a grand birthday ball. Brian does all he can to avoid his parents and grandfather, but he concedes to attend with his witchy friends. Everyone is caught up in the glitz and glamour of the occasion until one of the Grand Witch Council Members is murdered, and the Council summons the Witch Finder (a former witch persecutor during the Spanish Inquisition who is now cursed to do the Council’s bidding) to find the killer. Molly is tops on his list of suspects until he is assured that she did not kill Makaleigh, and they agree to help each other uncover the truth before the twenty-four-hour lockdown spell on the castle expires.
One of the things that I really like about this series is that the main characters are older than the typical cozy mystery protagonists. However, even though their magic is passed its prime, they never come across as too old for the adventures they face. Their wisdom and experience just adds to the enjoyment of reading, and the infusion of youth from Dorothy and Brian adds a nice balance. Joyce and Jim Lavene masterfully build a believable world where witches, ghosts, dragons, and werewolves live side by side with mortals. I love that Molly’s husband and son are not magical and that Molly used to be a school teacher. These little touches of reality make everything seem perfectly plausible. The characters are all relatable, even the nasty ones, and I feel like I am one of the coven and totally immersed in the mystery right along with the cast of characters. In this installment, I particularly enjoyed the Witch Finder Antonio. His old fashioned manners are charming, and his willingness to change his ways is endearing. I love that Molly and gang convince him that technology and questions are much better than torture in ferreting out the truth. As much as I like the cast of this series, I do admit that I find Olivia whiny this time around.
There is quite a bit going on in this book, but it never feels out of control or that any of the subplots are superfluous. There is the murder, Brian’s new familiar’s strange behavior, the hunt for the missing spell book, questions surrounding Drago’s motives, and Brian’s grandfather’s insistence that Brian fill the now vacant spot on the Council. Everything does eventually weave together providing a mystery that I was stumped to figure out. It is pretty rare for me not to figure out whodunit, and I definitely feel like I got my money’s worth when I do not have it all figured out. The lockdown spell on the castle gives the whole book a feeling reminiscent of the locked room and weekend holiday settings of the Golden Age of Mystery. I love it.
Putting on the Witch is great fun, and I highly recommend it to fans of the Lavene’s other writings and those who like a big dollop of magic in their cozy mysteries. Sadly, both Joyce and Jim passed away this year, and their presence will be greatly missed by the cozy mystery community. I keep hoping that there are more works that were written yet thus far unpublished. If not, they will continue to live on forever in their many wonderful tales.