My rating: 4 of 5 stars
4 stars to Shirley Damsgaard‘s Charmed to Death, the second book in the Abby and Ophelia series, for brewing up an even better story and turning on the ways of the witch. While a fun and good example of a cozy and has a lot of potential as a popular new series, it needs another book to fully round out the setting and the characters before I can push it to a 5.
Ophelia has a dream which her grandmother Abby interprets as a need to solve her best friend’s murder from five years ago which was the ultimate driver for Ophelia’s move back home to her small Iowa town from the Iowa big city. Ophelia begins to accept that she and her grandmother are witches and partially embraces her powers to discover who killed Brian. At the same time, Abby is leading a group of townsfolk to stop a big company from changing the landscape of their town and potentially causing disastrous results. Ophelia develops relationships with a few new male characters testing the waters to see who might be a good love interest, but Abby warns that one is dark and one is good. Which one will the witch pick? And what happens when the suspected serial killer who murdered Brian seems to be lurking in Ophelia’s hometown? All the stories come colliding together revealing more bubbling beneath the cauldron’s surface than actually appeared.
1. The story was quite clever. It had some complexity but also some simplicity which made it spot on for a cozy mystery read. You know from the beginning that one of the new characters is too good to be true, but you can’t quite figure out what’s going on until the big reveal.
2. Ophelia’s softer side comes out in this book. She’s not as harsh as she was in book 1, especially seeing her worry over her grandmother who has an accident and when she turns to her mother (who makes an appearance!) for comfort.
1. One of the sub-plots had no conclusion: what happens with the big company coming in to takeover some of the farmland and turn it into a hog breeding facility? After Abby’s accident, her cause seems to have dissipated along with Harley and Edna. I’m hoping this is picked up in book 3 but it was definitely left too open for readers just starting a new series.
2. When one of the charactes falls victim to an accident/killer, no one mourns his death and it really isn’t discussed a whole lot. There is no funeral, no town gossip, no sadness, etc. In order to build the appeal of the town and the people, I think it’s important to incorporate these side stories and themes into the overall series in order to build a large readership. Unfortunately, this example felt mechanical and not emotional.
The series really took off in this book from the debut. Characters are developing personalities and rivalries. Families are being integrated with Ophelia’s return home. The town is being flushed out. It has a lot of potential. And if you have any interest in witch history, it’s connecting the story back to the Salem Witch Trials which helps ground it in history. I’ll definitely move on to book 3 to see if this series flies off the handle!