I’ll be honest and tell you that it was the Portsmouth setting that drew me to this, the first Witch’s Cat Mystery series by Delia James. I used to live there – and for a setting for magic, there are few places that give a sense of the possible like it. Narrated by Elise Arsenault, please read on for my review of
A Familiar Tail
Nothing can quite play with a title like a cozy, and Delia James uses it all in this one. Clearly there are two stars in this story: Alistair the cat and Annabelle, an artist who’s arrived for a visit with her best friend. Annabelle Amelia Blessingsound Britton (Anna for short) has come to visit Martine, a friend and chef at the Pale Ale Inn. She’s at loose ends at the moment, and curious about the town and area, so she sets out to follow a large cat that seems to be leading her to a house. A house that, she discovers, gives her some feelings of tragedy – and soon it comes clear…sort of. Alistair the cat was owned by the woman who lived in the house, and was murdered. Even more comes to light as Anna discovers this woman was a witch, and her coven included Anna’s grandmother.
More to come as Anna learns that she also has magic, and Alistair isn’t an ordinary cat – he is magical in his own right and is prone to disappearing when the mood or circumstances strike. Oh poor Anna – not completely freaked out by these discoveries, but not entirely certain they are real, or what could happen if she does believe. I could wholly sympathize with her, and her confusion and slow acceptance felt normal and quite appropriate. When we add in Alistair, the most adorable sidekick ever with his cat-like ways that were just so adorable – add in magic and he was over-the-top cute! Now, for a first installment, I will say that Anna was well-defined and set up to grow and progress, although I didn’t feel great connections to the other secondary characters in the series, and particularly wanted to see more from and about Grandma BB.
Narration for this story is provided by Elise Arsenault, and she managed the first-person point of view clearly. A distinct voice for Anna that presented with shifts in emotional overtone for confusion, fear, self-doubt and determination. Secondary characters were introduced with a more conversational approach, and we get to see them through Anna’s eyes, with her own particular phrasing and tone modulation to distinguish one from another. While descriptions are present and clearly establish visual imagery, I was hoping for more of the small-town dressed up as a city feel that Portsmouth has, especially adding waterfront beauty, more of the historic homes and a better sense of the other characters that are sure to play a part in upcoming books. A good introduction to a new series, and one that brings a new character and sidekick to enjoy.
Stars: Overall 3 Narration 4 Story 3
Title: A Familiar Tail
Author: Delia James
Series: Witch's Cat Mystery #1
Also in this series: By Familiar Means
Genre: Contemporary Cozy Mystery, Magic
Narrator: Elise Arsenault
Published by: Berkley, Tantor Audio
Published on: 6 June, 2017
Source: Tantor Audio
Audio Length: 11 Hours: 14 minutes
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Magic and meows meet in the first enchanting Witch’s Cat mystery!
Unlucky-in-love artist Annabelle Britton decides that a visit to the seaside town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, is the perfect way to get over her problems. But when she stumbles upon a smoky gray cat named Alastair, and follows him into a charming cottage, Annabelle finds herself in a whole spellbook full of trouble.
Suddenly saddled with a witch's wand and a furry familiar, Annabelle soon meets a friendly group of women who use their spells, charms, and potions to keep the people of Portsmouth safe. But despite their gifts, the witches can’t prevent every wicked deed in town....
Soon, the mystery surrounding Alistair’s former owner, who died under unusual circumstances, grows when another local turns up dead. Armed with magic, friends, and the charmed cat who adopted her more than the other way around, Annabelle sets out to paw through the evidence and uncover a killer.
A copy of this title was provided via Tantor Audio for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.