Friday, July 17, 2020

A Spell for Trouble - A Review


The First Enchanted Bay Mystery

When Aleksandra Daniels quits her job in Manhattan, she knows she needs time with family, even if she hasn't seen her aunt and cousins in over twenty years. Ciocia Lydia and cousins Minka and Kamila welcome Alex with open arms and lots of Polish baked goods. Helping out in the family's apothecary shop, Alex can't help but enjoy the exotic teas and body care products, but is stunned when her aunt loses her temper on a customer. When the man is found dead the next day, it's thought to be a terrible accident. However, when it's discovered he was poisoned, Ciocia Lydia is arrested. Now it's up to Alex to prove her aunt's innocence, as that good looking detective thinks the case is closed. Can she trust her childhood friend? Or that nosy reporter? As Alex looks into the murder she also uncovers the truth about her family. Will she embrace her heritage or turn away from it as her parents did?

The first Enchanted Bay Mystery is a triumph! I love everything about it, from the Polish culture, to the family dynamics, from the paranormal to the police dog drop out. I love how food was weaved into the story. It's such an important, yet common and everyday part of traditional Polish life and really adds verisimilitude.  But there's more. There is a lot of moral ambiguity to be found here. Difficult decisions must be made, sometimes with no clear positive option. I especially love that the characters are not all "good". They all are shades of grey, some with darker secrets and leanings. I find a great affinity for Ciocia Lidia...and I could well imagine doing exactly what she did all those years ago. She's a strong, powerful, good woman, but there is a very realistic edge. I find myself at odds with the "good" detective, and rooting for the childhood friend. But neither of these two are all good...or all bad.

My favorite aspect of A SPELL FOR TROUBLE is the Polish connection. I fondly remember my Ciocia Brunia, and calling her that as well as Aunt Bert! My mouth was watering when everyone was munching on kolaczki and pączki. But even more than that, I thought it was brilliant how the Sobieski family's magick was entwined with the very real Mermaid of Warsaw.

A SPELL FOR TROUBLE introduces readers to a wonderful magickal world. Family and tradition are its foundation while a finely crafted mystery lies at its core. I can't wait to see Alex rediscover more about her family, herself, and her magick. Now if only I had a slice of sernik and a cup of Calm Down tea!

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