Saturday, April 3, 2021

A Spell of Murder (Witch Cats of Cambridge #1), by Clea Simon (author), Hillary Huber (narrator)

Dreamscape Media, November 2019 (original publication December 2018)

Becca  Colwin wanted to pursue a library science degree, but circumstances intervened. She had a job using her research skills, and a boyfriend, Jeff Blakely. She also had three cats--three littermates she adopted from a local shelter, Harriet, Laurel, and Clara.

Then Jeff broke up with her, and entirely too soon after, she lost her job. This leaves Becca with two things to do--find a new job, and pursue her new interest of studying witchcraft. Discovering an ancestor was one of the executed Salem witches sparked her interest and moved her to join a coven; now she has lots of time for it.

What she doesn't know is that her cats are the real witches. When Harriet, one of her cats, decides she wants a pillow and doesn't want to get up to go to one, she summons one out of the ether. Becca at that moment had been attempting a summoning spell; the appearance of the pillow convinces her she succeeded.

This is very exciting for her coven. It's even more exciting, in a far less positive way, when Becca goes to meet one of her fellow witches, and finds the woman dead, killed with the knife previously used to cut the cake served at the last meeting of the coven.

A series of events that really might convince you that Cambridge, MA really is, as one of the characters says, a small town, Becca is scrambling to solve the murder herself because she believes the police have decided she's the prime suspect.

And now we come to the thing that rather put me off this seemingly charming cozy mystery. The youngest and smallest of the three cats, Clara, the calico, is determined to use her skills, magic and otherwise, to help Becca solve the case, and keep Becca safe. The other two, Laurel and Harriet, have no interest. They just want Becca to stay at home, and feed them their meals and treats. For most of the book, it's not even clear to me that Harriet and Laurel even like Becca, or consider her anything more than a convenient servant.

Which, to be clear, for all the stereotypical depiction of cats, is not how any of my cats, over several decades, have ever behaved. Their affection for me was always obvious. This book almost seems to have been written by someone who doesn't like cats, which, to be clear, I know isn't true.

I like Becca. I like Clara. I like some of Becca's friends. The other cats and most of the other people, not so much.

There are other problems. We're never told what Becca was trying to summon with her summoning spell, but it probably wasn't the soft, golden, tasseled pillow that Harriet summoned. It's not at all clear why Becca accepts this as proof of her own success, rather than at least being puzzled by the weird result of her apparent success. There are other, similar problems, things that just don't make the sense they're supposed to make. People do things that don't make sense at all, or don't make sense given how they're portrayed.

I really wanted to like this audiobook, a lot. Instead, I'm left frustrated and annoyed.

I bought this audiobook.

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