Howdy, howdy! It’s the last Wednesday of the month, which means it’s time for another book review! For November, I read The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross by Lisa Tuttle. It was published on November 28th. As with my last two reviews, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Hydra, for giving me access to an ARC (advanced reader copy) in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get on with said review!
The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross is the second in Tuttle’s series about detectives Jasper Jesperson and Aphrodite (Di) Lane. I admit that when I realized this was book two, I bought and read the first. And I had a lot of the same complaints about both books. The premise is a fun one, basically being a supernatural version of Sherlock Holmes. The Witch at Wayside Cross sends our detectives out of London to Aylmerton in search of the story behind Charles Manning, who dropped dead in their front hall after showing up at two in the morning, delirious and babbling about being hunted by witches. Sounds exciting, right? Not so much.
I wanted to like the book with its promise of intrigue and witches, but it fell flat with me. There were at least five suspicious deaths throughout the book and one missing baby. It was a lot to keep track of, but we weren’t allowed to forget a single detail. Not because every aspect of each crime was astounding or even memorable, but because everything was explained to us at least three times. That’s still better than the first book, which explained every detail of the climax five different times. It was as if Tuttle didn’t trust the reader to understand what was going on the first time around. I found it a bit off putting in both books.
Aside from that, I found myself more interested in the supporting characters than the detectives themselves. They seemed more well-rounded than both Jesperson and Lane. This can be risky. It’s what made me want to keep reading this book, but since none of them seem like they’re going to become recurring characters, it doesn’t give me any incentive to pick up the next book should there be one.
I also found Miss Lane to be kind of dense, which was where a lot of the multiple explanations stemmed from. For a detective, she has a really hard time putting two and two together. Considering we’re in her perspective throughout the book, it gets a little tiresome. It’s like she’s being willfully stupid at times just so Jesperson will have a reason to speak. For the time period, that kind of behavior is understandable, but she should at least make the obvious connections in her head. At one point, she basically gives up trying to think and just follows her partner around because all will be explained. For a story that seems to be trying to say women can do whatever men can do, Miss Lane fails miserably at matching Jesperson’s wit and intelligence.
Beyond all of that, I found the writing to be kind of rambling and there was a lot of focus on unimportant things. I didn’t particularly care what they were eating as they were discussing the case. I felt the kidnapped baby arc was thrown in to add an actual paranormal element, but wasn’t exactly important to the main story. A lot of the story made me feel this way. I understood why it was there, but it felt like it was there in order to turn a good novella into a mediocre novel. That’s not the kind of writing I can enjoy.
Ultimately, I kind of wish I hadn’t wasted my time on The Curious Affair of the Witch at Wayside Cross. I feel bad for not liking it better, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. And I won’t be going out of my way to get a sequel should one come out.
Unfortunately, I’d only rate this one a 1 out of 5 stars. It sounds really cool, but it was poorly executed. If you want a good story about witches and mystery, this is not the book you’re looking for.