Publisher: BerkleyPublished: September 27, 2016
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Obtained via: Publisher
Reviewed by name and email address: Gina Ginalrmreviews@gmail.com
Having decided to stay in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and continue to learn about her witch heritage, Annabelle Britton is settling in nicely. So much so she has invited her grandmother BB to come and visit…and repair some decades old fences. And while she has promised not to practice her magic unsupervised, well sometimes a girl needs to step up and help her friends, right? And really, how much trouble can double checking a building to be sure there’s no ghost in there be? Especially when you don’t believe in ghosts? But when she gets into Jake and Miranda’s new building it’s not a ghost she finds…it’s a dead body. The first question is who is the dead man…and the second is, how did he get there? Annabelle doesn’t really want to get involved, but Jake and Miranda are the number one suspects. And it’s not too long before the local lieutenant has his sights on her as well. Under those circumstances, how can she not get involved?
BY FAMILIAR MEANS is the second book in Delia James Witch’s Cat Mystery series and the characters make for a nice addition. The star of the series is, of course, Alistair, the kitty who is Annabelle’s familiar. He’s a smart cat who knows just when to pop in and help his human out. While a number of craft elements, such as the importance of a circle, the use of a wand for focus, calling in the quarters, are explained in book 1 and further in book 2, just what a familiar is and what they can do is hinted at, but he isn’t completely explained, which is puzzling in a series about a Witch’s cat. Everyone recognizes him, but no explanation is given for why a fifty, give or take, year old cat is still around. Trust me, if mine could live that long I’d be thrilled…but then mine are regular house cats and not magickal ones.
The characters are interesting in and of themselves, but they sure seem to have a lot of spats back and forth. True, Annabelle is working to bring her grandmother and old friend Julia back together, but it seems like all of them, at some point or other, is always angry or irritated with Annabelle herself. They aren’t all that cozy with each other.
The story itself was kind of flat. Not a bad read, but not a page turner. The only characters I really enjoyed were Leo and Max, the miniature dachshunds and Alastair. The humans came across pretty flat except when they were angry at each other. The series does have promise and I do like how aspects of the craft are explained in the stories. The writing just needs to be tightened up a bit.