4 star

By Familiar Means

A Witch’s Cat Mystery, Book #2

By Delia James


Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Daniele



After discovering her mystical heritage—and being adopted by furry feline familiar Alistair—artist Annabelle Britton has decided to make picturesque Portsmouth, New Hampshire, her new home. Now, she can take the time to figure out her new abilities and welcome her grandmother, who is visiting Portsmouth, and her old coven, for the first time in thirty years.

But being a witch doesn’t magically put money in the bank. When she’s hired to paint the murals for a new coffee house, it seems like a wish come true. But then a series of spooky sounds and strange happenings convince the owners that their new shop is haunted. They want Anna and her coven to evict the restless spirit before the grand opening.

Annabelle is certain the haunted happenings at the shop are just hocus pocus. But when her search reveals hidden smugglers’ tunnels beneath the shop—and a dead body—Annabelle, Alastair, and the coven suddenly find themselves in a cat and mouse game with a killer.


By Familiar Means is the well written second book in the Witch’s Cat Mystery series, and readers will surely find themselves under its spell.

Anna decides to stay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and is exploring her newly found witchy heritage.  Though she has joined the local coven and established some other friendships (and potential romantic relationships), she worries that her “free” living arrangements will come to an end at any moment.  Being a witch is all well and good, but she needs paying artist jobs to pay the bill for rent that she is sure is coming.  Luckily, local hippies and coffee shop proprietors Jake and Miranda are moving locations to expand their business and hire Anna to paint murals in the new space.  However, they think the old building is haunted and want Anna to rid it of its ghosts. This is not exactly her area of expertise, but she agrees to give it a shot.  Instead of finding the lingering deceased, she discovers old smugglers’ tunnels beneath the building and a not so old dead body.  Jake and Miranda (and Anna) immediately become the prime suspects in the local hotel’s sous chef Jimmy Upton’s death.  Obviously, it is in Anna’s best interest to investigate and find the real killer.  Meanwhile, Anna’s Grandma B.B. returns to town after a decades’ long feud with the other guardian witches of Portsmouth seeking to mend some fences and help her granddaughter learn about her family legacy.

I really like the concept of the Witch’s Cat Mystery series, and Delia James gets it all right with By Familiar Means.  The coastal town with a long history of witches, a curious and slightly awkward protagonist, a great cat familiar, nonthreatening magic, a glimpse of the town’s smuggling past, potential romance, and, of course, a murder.  I am so glad that James brought Grandma B.B. to town.  She is quirky and provides an interesting perspective of the coven and Portsmouth’s past.  Plus, she is simply easy to like.  The supporting characters are well developed and appealing, all providing layers of personalities and lots of plot potential.  I would be remiss if I failed to mention Anna’s cat familiar Alistair.  He always appears when needed to help save the day.  The only thing that would make him even better is if he could talk.

There is actually quite a bit going on in this book.  Aside from the murder, there are threads concerning conservation and preservation vs. development and independent businesses threatened by big business.  These all contribute to make the murder mystery sufficiently complex.  I would have liked for the Prohibition era smuggling tunnels thread to have been further flushed out.  I think it would make for fascinating reading.  Perhaps, James will revisit them in a future installment.  There are a plethora of possible suspects and scenarios that could lead to Jimmy’s death, and, though the end did not come as a complete surprise, the revelation provides a satisfactory conclusion.

I greatly enjoy my time with Anna, Alistair, and Grandma B.B. and hope to have many more adventures with them.  I recommend By Familiar Means to fans of paranormal cozies that are pretty lighthearted about the magic.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*