Monday, September 13, 2021

Unfamiliar Magic (The Familiar Cafe), by Bonnie Elizabeth

My Big Fat Orange Cat Publishing, March 2021

Jade Owlens runs a cat café in Waverton, Kentucky. Or rather, she runs a familiar café. Jade is a witch, and Waverton is a witch town. There's a specialty library for witches, breeders of a wide variety of familiar animals, not just cats but dogs, birds, horses, sheep, goats--any familiar a witch might find best suits them. There's also a shelter, and Jade's café, taking in familiars who have lost their witches, and are looking to be adopted by a new witch.

Jade's café only handles cats, making it look quite normal for "ordinaries" who don't know that much of the town, including the police force, is populated by witches. One fine Tuesday morning, Jade and two friends--Trinity, the senior library assistant at the specialty library, and Natalie, the manager of the local hotel--are having their weekly "long break," at the café where they have good coffee and good pastries, and the presence of the cat familiars. One of the local police officers comes in, but before he can get his coffee, he gets a call, and leaves. The Jade's own familiar, Mason, howls loudly in distress, and instead of wondering what's going on with the cop, Jade is soothing her cat and asking him what upset him. Mason has seen a spirit, a very distressed spirit, probably murder victim. Mason helped the spirit transition. He doesn't know who it was, but it felt familiar. Maybe someone he'd met.

Eric Boyd, the head librarian, has been murdered, and Trinity quickly becomes the prime suspect. Many people disliked Eric, but a rare book is missing, and Eric had accused Trinity of stealing it. There's also a witness who claims he saw Trinity do it--a very disruptive eight-year-old boy named Isaac, visiting Waverton with his mother, Fiona, and an older woman whom people keep looking right past and not quite getting her name. Fiona says they came to Waverton because she's worried about a problem with her familiar, a parrot. She did visit the familiar veterinarian, and says she was doing research at the library. Because Fiona insists on her son's honesty, and that he be believed, Trinity is arrested, at least for now.

There are some other seemingly strange visitors in town. Mrs. Ainsley says she's looking for a new familiar, and has two other women with her. Mrs. Ainsley seems like a sweet, older woman, but Mason says she has negative energy. Maybe that means she's ill;  maybe it means she's using negative magic. That question seems to be answered when, on being told that someone else has already applied for a cat she has decided, a day after meeting, that she wants, she actually threatens Jade with her own magic.

Then there's the group of six college students, all but one of whom seem to be ordinaries. The sixth one, a young woman whose name is Flori, has very strong magic, but seems not to be aware of it. They come into the café, assuming it's an ordinary cat café, and want to spend time with the cats. But Flori is very pushy about wanting to handle a cat who doesn't want to meet her, and with no apparent awarenss of what she's doing, tries to use magic on Jade to get her way. That doesn't work, and gets her kicked out--but she went to the specialty library, too. Could she be the killer?

Jade, Natalie, and Trinity's brother and lawyer, Tyson, have to figure out this tangled situation, and are not helped at all by the fact that there seems to be just enough uncertainty about the moment of Eric's death that Trinity could have done it. It's a nicely tangled mystery, with interesting characters, human and feline. Waverton seems like an interesting town, and this is a potentially very nice cozy mystery series. I really enjoyed it.

I bought this book.

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