4 star rating
Spell Booked
A Retired Witches Mystery #1
By Joyce and Jim Lavene
ISBN# 9780425268254
Author’s Website:  joyceandjimlevine.com

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Daniele


Once upon a time in Wilmington, North Carolina, three witches ran a curio shop named Smuggler’s Arcane. But as the years passed, their magical powers started to fade—leaving them no choice but to conjure up a retirement package…  

Before they could blink their eyes or twitch their noses, Molly, Elsie, and Olivia somehow became eligible for AARP. But they can’t fly off to Boca Raton just yet. First they must give up their magic, recruit and train three new witches, and pass on their cherished spellbook.

They’ve barely begun to consider potential practitioners when Olivia winds up dead and their spellbook is stolen. To honor their friend and reclaim their spells, Molly and Elsie are about to go wand-to-wand with a dangerous young witch more powerful than the trio was in their prime. And this time they’re going to need more than magic up their sleeves…(Goodreads)


Spell Booked drew me in immediately, and I knew early on in the story that these were characters I wanted to spend time with.  Olivia, Molly, and Elsie make up their own witch coven in the coastal town of Wilmington, NC.  Lifelong friends who together own a curio shop, really a cover for selling all sorts of magical supplies to the covert witch community, find themselves in a bit of a pickle.  As with other abilities and such that dim with age, the ladies notice that their powers are fading and their magic sometimes goes awry.  Before they can “retire”, they must find replacement witches for their coven and pass on all their knowledge and spellbook.  This is made a more difficult task since none of their descendents have inherited their magical abilities so they must look elsewhere.  They set their sights on Dorothy, a young local librarian, but before they can approach her Olivia is brutally murdered and their spellbook stolen.  It seems that a powerful rogue witch is stealing artifacts and killing witches to gain power.  However, the Grand Council does not seem very interested in resolving the situation so Molly and Elsie, with the “help” of Dorothy and another young witch Brian (who happened to be the last person seen with Olivia and is a suspect himself) set out to avenge Olivia on their own.  But they face an even bigger obstacle – Molly’s husband Joe is a homicide detective assigned to Olivia’s case, and he does not know anything about his wife’s magical tendencies.  The witches must keep their abilities under wraps to protect their mortal families.

The Levine writing team has done a good job creating a paranormal world that fits realistically into the real world.  The rules of the witch community are uncomplicated and easy to follow.  Each of the main characters has a distinct personality and magical strengths, and I particularly like the ladies’ cats, their familiars, and hope to learn more of their back stories in future books.  The witchcraft presented here is not particularly dark or evil.  When Dorothy asks what witches do, she is told:

“we observe and protect the laws of nature.  We interact with the natural elements of the world.” (p.43) 

I appreciated that the witches, for the most part, carry on normal average daily lives.  Werewolves briefly make an appearance, and I hope other fey creatures are included in the future.  The story was well paced with enough intrigue to keep the plot moving along.  The older characters’ relationships are natural and endearing, and the younger witches a good contrast to the older.  Specific suspects were a bit vague, but there were enough twists and turns to keep this reader guessing at the murderer’s identity until almost the very end.

I really enjoyed Spell Booked and found it to be a solid first entry in the Retired Witches series.  Mr. and Mrs. Levine rarely disappoint, and this is no exception.  I highly recommend this to fans that enjoy more mature sleuths, a bit of the paranormal, and Southern settings.  I look forward to the next adventure.

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