A Familiar Tail
A Witch’s Cat Mystery, Book #1
By Delia James
Author’s website: https://www.facebook.com/Delia-James-994395340606865/?fref=ts
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele
Magic and meows meet in the first enchanting Witch’s Cat mystery!
Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.
Suddenly saddled with a witch’s wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town….
Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.
A Familiar Tail is the delightful first entry in the Witch’s Cat Mystery, and it is spellbinding fun from the first page to the last.
Anna, an artist and free spirit, has been living with her brother, helping to take care of their ill father. Since he is now on the mend, she decides a change of scenery is in order and plans to visit her good friend Martine, who has recently relocated to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. As soon as Anna arrives in town, people seem to know who she is through her grandmother. Anna knows that her Grandma BB grew up in Portsmouth and left when she married Anna’s grandfather, but there was never any discussion of those years. Seemingly coincidental circumstances quickly lead Anna to a gray cat named Alistair and the cottage of his deceased owner Dorothy Hawthorne. Anna has always gotten “vibes” from places, able to sense good and bad things that happened there, but she is still surprised at the sense of welcome and having come home that she feels when she steps onto Dorothy’s property. She cannot help but follow Alistair into the cottage, and he leads her to an altar, complete with her photo and a magic wand. Her “vibes” tell her that Dorothy’s death was no accident, and though she is found trespassing by Dorothy’s nephew Frank, he believes her. The two make a deal that Anna will live in the cottage and try to get to bottom of the mystery surrounding Dorothy’s death. Thus begins the revelation of Anna’s true legacy and the secret life of the residents of Portsmouth.
A Familiar Tail encompasses all of the magical ingredients that make a great cozy mystery – a likeable protagonist who is a little out of her comfort zone, a quirky cast of supporting characters, an enchanting (literally) setting, a solid mystery with plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader guessing, and a fantastic cat.
James does an admirable job of introducing us to Anna’s new world without sacrificing the pace of the story. I was immediately drawn in to this witchy world, with its charming cottage, magical garden, and secrets. The cover of the book alone, which is beautiful, casts a spell, begging the reader to pick up the book. Portsmouth seems like a wonderful place to visit, and it is full of residents that I cannot wait to get to know in future installments.
Anna is smart and amiable, with just enough snark to keep her entertaining and relatable. I like that she approaches everything about her new circumstances with a touch of disbelief, thus making all of her magical situation realistic. The other members of Dorothy’s coven each bring her own strengths to the party, and they are all believable. Even the non-witchcraft practicing residents’ acceptance of the “special” aspects of their town feels plausible. The Maitlands are sufficiently villainous to add a bit of darkness to the story, but I do feel like Elizabeth might be misunderstood. Of course, Alistair is my favorite character. How fun would it be to have your own familiar that you could communicate with? The mystery itself was complex and had me to second guessing myself throughout.
I really enjoyed this strong freshman mystery and recommend A Familiar Tale to any cozy reader, both those who do and do not tend to enjoy paranormal leanings.
*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*