On this Mysterious Monday, we travel to the happy hamlet of Silver Hollow, New Hampshire, courtesy of A Spell of Trouble, the first book in a new cozy mystery series by Leighann Dobbs and Traci Douglass. There are some cats in Silver Hollow, though not as many as we’d hoped, and there are also some toads and salamanders, and even a Venus flytrap, all of which help make this book a fun ride.
A quiet place that’s different
As you might guess, Silver Hollow is a nice, quiet place. There’s a hairstylist who will give you exactly the right cut. There’s a great little pet store, Enchanted Pets, where you can get a parakeet or goldfish or hedgehog or, if you happen to be a witch, a kitten raised to be a familiar. If you have the cash and the inclination, you can also pick up something called a solstice toad, which reportedly has saliva that can make spells more powerful. If you mean to use any of these creatures for dark purposes though, forget it, because owner Isolde Quinn (“Issy”) won’t sell to you.
Okay, so there are a few things about Silver Hollow that are, um, different. The main thing that’s different is that lots of paranormals (vampires, witches, warlocks, and so on) live there. Issy herself is a witch, as are her many cousins, and there’s a deputy, Dee Dee, who is a very nice werewolf. For the most part, the paranormals live quietly alongside the ordinary humans, trying to keep a low profile so as not to attract the attention of “the committee” (a mysterious body that keeps the paranormals in line) and worst of all, the FBPI (think FBI, only with a special mission to pursue paranormals).
The day Louella Drummond dies
All is more or less well in Silver Hollow…until the day Louella Drummond drops dead outside Issy’s shop, with Issy standing over her, following an argument with Issy. Oh, and an argument with Issy’s cousin Gray, the town’s hairstylist with a magical touch.
You’re getting the feeling this is going to be a problem for Issy? Well yes, it will be…and in more ways than one.
Although the humans might think Louella suffered an unfortunate heart attack, it is apparent to all the paranormals that the woman was killed by means of dark magic. Soon enough two FBPI agents are snooping around. One is a goon out for paranormal blood; the other is a total hunk. Total hunk.
Somehow, Issy and her cousins have to figure out who killed Louella, and why, before that FBPI goon manages to pin it on one of them. This will mean confronting someone who is practicing some powerful dark magic—something Issy has faced before, with terrifying results.
Oh, and that hunky FBPI guy? Yeah, he and Issy are really into each other, though they both try to resist it.
Cats and other familiars
Of course, we picked this book up hoping for cats, because witches and cats go together like chocolate and peanut butter, right? Well, there are some cats—for instance, there’s Brimstone, a dark gray cat who doesn’t really belong to anywitch. We thought of him as more of a freelance cat. He is not a constant in the plot, but he shows up at important points.
For the most part, though, the witches in this book have other familiars—a Pomeranian, a cockatoo, a Venus flytrap. To say this is a disappointment would be wrong. Come on, who doesn’t want to read about a witch with a Venus flytrap for a familiar? If you dip into A Spell of Trouble looking for lots of cats, be warned that you will only find a few, and they won’t be major players.
Still, we think there is plenty in this book to like. We like Issy, for one, because she has that cool pet shop. We like her cousins and that hunky FBPI guy. I’ll mention the Venus flytrap again…just because. We like the tension between the human world and the paranormal world. We like how little bits of magic are just a normal part of life in Silver Hollow (unless you’re human and don’t know that magic exists).
A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!