Title: Bookshop Witch (A Seashell Cove Paranormal Mystery Book One)

Publisher: Pf Publishing

Author: T. Thorn Coyle

Pages: 197pp

Price: $15.99 / $4.99

Sarah Braxton is a witch. The daughter of witches, she gave up on her magic after her mother’s death. Now twenty-eight, she is back home, running the same bookshop where she grew up. But something strange is going on in Seashell Cove. Toby the brownie has disappeared in the middle of the night. The chaneques who live in and maintain the beautiful garden behind the Mexican restaurant are gone. Someone has broken into the greenhouse that supplies the cafe. And now a dryad, a peaceful and ecologically necessary spirit, has been murdered. It’s up to Sarah and her small network of friends and magical allies to save the remaining magical beings in Seashell Cove and bring the murderer to justice — because Sarah is Justice, and it’s time for her to embrace her heritage ….

I loved Coyle’s short story “Lizards and Lying Men,” and I love paranormal mysteries, so I decided to give Bookshop Witch a try. How could I resist magic, books, and an adorable cat?

Overall, I quite enjoyed Bookshop Witch. Sarah is a highly appealing protagonist. Unlike so many lead characters in urban fantasies, she is not a skinny, belly-baring badass with the emotional maturity of a teenager. Instead, she is a curvy woman who is comfortable with her body, who loves her life, and who worries that she is not doing everything with her magic that she should; she knows that she is hiding part of herself away, and it’s time for her to live up to her potential.

Sarah is surrounded by a wonderful and diverse supporting cast. There’s Uncle Cyrus, a powerful wizard who mentored her mother and watched over Sarah as a child. Cecilia, her former girlfriend and now best friend, a mechanic who loves to get her hands dirty. Her boyfriend Stefon, a computer programmer and medieval re-enactor who takes his knightly code very seriously. Plus a couple of eager teenagers, a gifted chef and her son, assorted gardeners and witches, and a ghost. And, of course, a cat.

I only have two complaints, and those did not really affect my enjoyment of the novel. First, the pacing is slow; I kept jumping back and forth between Bookshop Witch and two other titles. There’s a lot of talking, a lot of introspection, and a lot of walking around looking at habitats with missing nature spirits. Don’t go into Bookshop Witch expecting magical explosions, flashy spells, and wild broom chases. This is a cozy mystery, meant to be read with a cup of tea and a snuggly cat on your lap.

Second, I was never really clear on why a particular character (no spoilers) was sent to test Sarah’s magic. That nagged me right up until the end of the book, and no satisfactory answer was ever given. I hope that the question is addressed in the next book.

Ultimately, Bookshop Witch accomplished exactly what it set out to do: for those two hundred pages, I happily followed Sarah around Seashell Cove, racing to save threatened magical creatures and stop a murderer. It was a fun visit, and I look forward to making the trip again.

Recommended to fans of Coyle’s other books, as well as the Sonoma Witches series by Gretchen Galway, The Malykant Mysteries by Charlotte E. English, the Windflower series by Andi C. Buchanan, and Touched by Magic by Celine Jeanjean.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

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