Monday, July 18, 2016

A Familiar Tail by Delia James

La Nuit ponders A Familiar Tail

Reviewed by Jeanne

A Familiar Tail:  A Witch’s Cat Mystery by Delia James begins with Annabelle Britton visiting her best friend in Portsmouth, NH in an effort to get her life in order after a break-up.  Things aren’t going well financially, so free room and board wouldn’t go amiss, either. Annabelle’s never been to Portsmouth before, but her grandmother once lived there.  Maybe that explains why Annabelle feels an immediate connection to the place and why her “Vibe”—a mysterious sense that lets her know if a place is good or safe—seems to be happy.

Before she even has a chance to settle in, Annabelle finds herself dogged (no pun intended) by a gray cat the locals call Alastair.  Alastair has been roaming the town since his owner died in a fall, and no one has been able to catch him. Annabelle tries, following him into an abandoned house where she finds much more than she ever bargained for:  a sort of altar with her own picture on it. Then her Vibe kicks in and she knows that the death of Alastair’s owner was no accident.

It takes a bit longer to convince Annabelle she has some unusual supernatural gifts, and that she’s not the only one.  There are a number of witches in Portsmouth who work together to try to keep the town and its people safe, but are all of them trustworthy?  And why does a mention of her grandmother make some people very uneasy?

First books in series can be very tricky. Authors want to lay a firm foundation for subsequent books but sometimes this means the first book bogs down.  I’m pleased to say that James does a very good job of introducing a diverse cast of characters and laying the supernatural groundwork for this series.  Annabelle still has her doubts about how real the “woo woo” is, but for the most part she goes with the flow.  (I have a personal peeve about paranormal books in which the hero/heroine remains in denial for the entire book or even multiple books. I feel that if you ask a reader to accept a concept, you should at least have your main character buy into the premise pretty quickly.) This doesn’t mean that she accepts everything immediately or even trusts all she’s hearing, but she’s open to the idea.  The characters were fairly done, and the book moved at a good pace, though I did get a bit impatient that Annabelle follow up at first to get answers from her grandmother. Annabelle is a likeable heroine even if she is--shudder!-- a morning person, and feline Alastair is a charmer. I expect he'd sweep La Nuit off her paws.  While the villains of the piece were easy to guess, there were enough twists to keep it entertaining in this para-cozy.  (If that's not a word it should be!)

Some things fell into place a little too easily, but I liked the premise and enjoyed the characters.  I’ll be looking forward to the next in the series.

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