Howdy, howdy! I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas (or whatever it is you happen to celebrate)! It’s the last Wednesday of the month (and year), so it’s time for another book review. I looked for something festive, but ended up going with another cozy mystery. For December, I got a hold of an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Spell of Murder by Clea Simon, which was released earlier this month. As usual, I must thank NetGalley and the publisher, Polis Books, for granting me access to this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. Now, let’s get to it!
A Spell of Murder is the first in the new Witch Cats of Cambridge series. It follows Clara, a calico cat, and her two sisters, Harriet and Laurel, all of whom happen to be witch cats (yes, they are cats who can do magic). They do their best to keep their “owner,” Becca, out of trouble as she embarks on a new adventure in her life. Recently single and newly unemployed, Becca is on a mission to find herself. She researches her family history and even joins a local coven. But when a covenmate is murdered, Becca is pulled down the rabbit hole of wanting to find out what happened. Her cats must help keep her out of trouble. Whether out of love or the desire for more food and treats depends on which cat you ask.
You might be wondering why I said it follows Clara instead of Becca. That’s because the book is (mostly) told from Clara’s POV. It’s part of the reason I wanted to check this book out. A murder story from a cat’s POV? Sounds neat. And it was. But it slips out of Clara’s POV at random moments, which is jarring and occasionally really confusing. For the most part, Clara finds ways to be in each scene, but a couple of times the POV just flat out changes to Becca because Clara isn’t around. If this was a braided narrative set up so we expected the POV shifts, that would be fine. But it’s not, so the shifts feel lazy. An easy out when putting a cat in the scene is too difficult.
Other than that, the story is solid, if somewhat predictable. I guessed at the murderer as soon as they showed up, but I also have a strong dislike of that type of person, so maybe it was just wishful thinking. Correct wishful thinking, but still. There’s a douchenozzle of a love interest, an actual love interest, an overzealous bestie, and a plethora of other characters you would expect in a story like this. The most interesting characters are the cats. Clara is all about loving and protecting Becca. Harriet basically just wants food and treats and all the comforts she can get. And Laurel simply likes drama, especially when it involves a man. The humans are just kind of there.
The writing style is easy going and carries the reader along for the most part. It tries to get you to follow it to awkward conclusions, instead of going with your gut. That’s what cozy mysteries do. The descriptions of the people in the book are pretty vague, which makes it a little difficult to separate them, but that’s how the cats see people. It was interesting to see the world as a cat. And it makes for a light, quick read.
Ultimately, it was an okay read. I probably won’t go looking for future books in the series, but if I randomly run across them, I’ll flip through and see if anything has improved.
Overall, I gave A Spell of Murder three stars. It wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my cup of tea. If you like magical cats and Hallmark channel murder mysteries, you might like it. If not, you’re not missing much.