From the Bookblog of the Bristol Public Library (Bristol, VA):
A Spell of Murder by Clea Simon
Becca Colvin has been having a rough patch. She’s lost her job as a researcher due to cutbacks and her boyfriend Jeff has just broken up with her. Feeling lonely and a bit lost, she finds a flyer advertising for witches (new or in training) and decides to join. After all, she already has three cats—three familiars, corrects Trent, the coven’s warlock—and Becca thinks she might just have psychic powers.
But like everything else in her life, success at conjuring seems to elude her. Then, out of nowhere, a pillow appears: a pillow she’s never seen before, a pillow she didn’t realize she was summoning. It’s quite the breakthrough, and her fellow witches and warlock are suitably impressed. Becca is on her way to becoming a witch.
Except that she wasn’t the one who produced the pillow. That would be Harriet, her long-haired, cream colored cat. Or as little Clara the calico put it, it was all Harriet’s fault, because Harriet was too lazy to go sit on a pillow and summoned one instead. Siamese Laurel is coolly amused, but Clara is worried. There’s no telling what Becca might do if she thinks she really has powers.
Things take an even darker turn when a member of the coven is found murdered—and it appears that Becca might have a motive. Can Clara save her person without revealing her own supernatural gifts?
This is the first in the Witch Cats of Cambridge series, and a charming start it is. Told primarily from Clara’s point of view, Simon imbues all three cats with strong, distinct personalities from hedonistic Harriet to manipulative Laurel who likes to stir the pot just to see what mischief emerges. Clara is loyal and nurturing, concerned about Becca and determined to help. Becca herself is an appealing character, down but not out, kind, generous, and sometimes a bit gullible. The mystery is well done, with many motives and many suspects, but the true treat for me is seeing how the cats view humans as well as recognizing aspects of cats I’ve known with these three feline sisters. I also enjoy the hints that there is a greater backstory of cat and human relationships to come.
Most of all, I like that the book features an engaging, sweet-natured, intelligent heroine. The fact that she has four legs, fur, and a tail, is just a bonus. I look forward to more adventures with the Cambridge Cat Coven.