The Witches of Hemlock Grove

The Witches of Hemlock Grove, Boxset: Volumes 1 – 3 Monty’s Tale Press in e-book format by Kennedy Chase.

Introduction/characters: The stories center on activity of protagonist Grace Angelos, a widow now approaching middle-age who is a former local police officer still hired to consult on difficult cases. This incidentally, helps sustain the family bakery business. Her special deductive powers stem from her occult background along with hints acquired from her constant companions Noah, a chocolate Labrador, and a white cat Charity she has reason to believe embody elements of her deceased father and mother. The Angelos family, because of these reputedly occult powers, originally fled during the Salem Witch Hunt and eventually landed in the extremely picturesque New England coastal town of Hemlock Grove. Other recurring characters are: Detective Zackery Jackson, her former trainee with whom she still works well; her older sister Joy, an excellent baker but with a compulsive desire to prepare magic potions to ‘nudge’ fate in a desired direction – an activity that Grace constantly must guard against because of the disastrous results of a former action by her mother who was a very powerful maker of such potions; Joy’s husband Nathaniel, now the closely knit family’s ‘jack-of all-trades’; her even older sister Hope who has clairvoyant powers but mostly is reclusive after never really having recovered from losing her husband in the Vietnam war; Dario Donatalli, the suave, handsome owner of the local bookstore who the reader discovers in the first volume to be more than he appears; a host of other town and/or nearby residents of varying importance to one or more of the individual tales.

Plots: A Mystic Murder, the first volume, centers on a local bar owner, Greg Pelt being found dead in the Angelos family bakery’s oven. This could result in a disastrous situation. The family is committed to a large catering job which really is needed for their business survival. Since this is a small town where everyone knows everyone, food prepared in the same oven would NOT be well received. Thus, something must be done about getting the food baked and the perpetrator must be discovered and apprehended quickly. Unfortunately there are numerous suspects: the King brothers Callum, Abe and David, were constantly feuding with the Mannings; Greg recently had thrown family members out of his bar at the point of a shotgun; Michelle Deschamps had been romantically, but secretly involved with Greg as had been his barmaid Casey Foster and a young King family daughter; also Francisca, another local dweller with special talents who was involved with Abe. Mystical activity as expected, plays an important part in the ultimate resolution of the situation and the reader moves on to the next volume in the series.

Plot: A Cryptic Case. During the official reception celebrating the town’s founding in March 16, 1916 the mayor is murdered and Dario’s extremely rare book is stolen in a highly unusual manner. After interviewing Stephania the lady of Thornwood Manor and other residents, Grace and Zack strongly suspect a young couple that were noisily demonstrating during the event and the Mayor’s ex-wife who drunkenly performed a ranting denunciation of the mayor. Then a visit to the unpleasant seller of potion ingredients, Louis Merlowe who ‘under persuasion’ is able to identify the ingredients that produce a powerful spell for disguise and also to identify to whom he had sold them. This leads to still another suspect and the tale ultimately ends in spectacular fashion as Grace, with important help from Noah and Charity finally must fight through strong black magic spells to solve both crimes.

Plot: A Tangled Teaser finds Grace and Dario on holiday staying as guests of Anthony Cava, an artist friend of Dario’s who is the new resident of a home in the expensive Ocean View enclave. After settling in, talk centers on a report of smuggling of Viking antique jewelry that according to rumor, had been discovered at a sunken ship in the cove. A murder of the local diving instructor suddenly occurs, gradually is tied together with the Viking artefacts and a smuggling ring involving some of the cove’s residents as well as newcomers. Ultimately another interesting conclusion is provided.

Discussion: These three enjoyable murder mysteries are solved by usual routine methods with associated assists from individuals versed in various aspects of witchcraft. The plots are interesting, well-executed and move well. The second tale depends largely upon the occult while the first and third are more balanced. The characters would benefit from a little more ‘body’ but overall are acceptable.

4* Enjoyable murder mysteries with a little aid from witchcraft.


Something Witchy This Way Comes

Something Witchy This Way Comes, (previously published as Murder Spell) is a mystery in The Victorian Witch Chronicles in e-book form by Fiola Tempest.

Plot: The tale opens with Tellehandra Quin McMurry, preferably called Viola, revealing that life on her landed gentry father’s estate in Galway County, Ireland had been a happy one with her sisters and mother whom her father referred to “as wild as the land”. Suddenly and for reasons unknown to her, they suddenly disappeared and shortly thereafter her father passed away leaving her a 15-year-old orphan. She was left as the sole heir to her father’s sizeable estate and according to the law of the period her money would be transferred to her husband upon marriage unless she did not marry until the age of 25, when the inheritance could be hers. Her uncle, suspected of being a heavy gambler as well as perpetrator of other nefarious schemes, is appointed her legal guardian. The story progresses revolving around facts she discovers from a presumed lost letter and other slowly evolving evidence about the evilness of her guardian and of his son Thomas with whom the two attempt to force her into marriage. Simultaneously, evidence gradually reveals evidence that she may have some attachment to witchery and that this fact also may offer some explanation for her mother and sisters inexplicable disappeared. Mounting suspense is generated while Viola attempts to escape a deadly fate planned by her dastardly uncle and his son as she receives some help from an unusual source and also discovers the manner in which unsolved murders had been committed and by whom.

Discussion: This is a short story taking place in the late nineteenth century and manages to convey quite well a sense of the mores of the time as well as providing a feeling of ‘being in the era’. It moves well and should be thoroughly enjoyed by readers who take pleasure in fanciful tales of this period.

4* 5* For readers enjoying fanciful mystery tales with a touch of the occult.