Strange Magic: An Essex Witch Museum Mystery (Essex Witches Mystery 1) by Syd Moore
|Strange Magic: An Essex Witch Museum Mystery (Essex Witches Mystery 1) by Syd Moore|
|Reviewer: Luke Marlowe|
|Summary: A witty, whip-smart read that captivates the reader and conjures a plot full of danger, fun and romance.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: May 2017|
|Publisher: Point Blank|
|External links: Author's website|
Rosie Strange doesn't believe in ghosts or witches or magic. No, not at all. It's no surprise therefore when she inherits the ramshackle Essex Witch Museum, her first thought is to take the money and run. Still, the museum exerts a curious pull over Rosie. There's the eccentric academic who bustles in to demand she help in a hunt for old bones, those of the notorious Ursula Cadence, a witch long since put to death. And there's curator Sam Stone, a man about whom Rosie can't decide if he's tiresomely annoying or extremely captivating. It all adds up to looking like her plans to sell the museum might need to be delayed, just for a while. Finding herself and Sam embroiled in a most peculiar centuries-old mystery, Rosie is quickly expelled from her comfort zone, where to her horror, the secrets of the past come with their own real, and all too present, danger as a strange magic threatens to envelop them all.
Syd Moore is inspired by the history of the Essex Witch trials - trials that took place in the 17th Century under the watchful eye of Matthew Hopkins – the notorious Witchfinder General. They're something I've only become familiar with recently – as a Northern Lad I grew up with tales of the Pendle Witches. However, a few books published this year have concentrated on the Essex Witches, and Strange Magic is the latest (and, in my opinion, the best).
Imagine the fun, spooky mysteries of Jonathan Creek, blended with the wonderful brutishness of Midsummer Murders and Hammer Horror, and mix into that a sparring, sparking sexual chemistry that wouldn't feel out of place in Moonlighting. It all comes together to form a potent page-turner in Strange Magic – a book I struggled to put down and felt very, very sad to finish. Rosie Strange is a brilliant lead character – funny, clever and independent, she's a strong Essex girl who doesn't need a man or a manicure, but could absolutely get both if she wanted, because it's 2017 and it's her choice. She leaps off the page, as does her newfound co-worker Sam, and their rapport is one that makes the book sparkle and crackle with electricity. The other characters encountered are just as interesting, and I'm pleased that this is the start of a series, as there are many characters introduced here who I'd be very keen to revisit (particularly Auntie Babs. More Auntie Babs please!)
Plot wise, Moore blends an old tale with a contemporary one well, using the sad tale of the Essex Witches as a fascinating plot point, but never exploiting the poor women who were killed – she, and her main cast of characters, are very much on the side of those women. It's an adventure that veers from comedy to horror from one page to the next, but doesn't feel unbalanced – changes in tone are deft and work well in emphasising the sparky romantic comedy of the plot that flows so well alongside the darker, horror aspects such as possession and satanic cults. It's a pleasantly visual read – the descriptions are such that the characters and situations are presented in vivid detail to the reader, and as such it's a read that feels vibrant and alive.
This is the first in a trilogy, and I for one am very, very excited for parts two and three. It's hard to put my finger on what makes this book so good, but, in short – everything works. The characters are brilliant – relatable, real, witty and warm. The plot is a puzzling mystery that sweeps the reader along, and Moore's voice as a writer is one that will make the reader want to go out and buy her other books ( I certainly will be doing). It's been one of my favourite reads so far this year, and I heartily recommend it – this Essex Witch Mystery has most certainly cast a spell on me! (Sorry…)
Many thanks to the publishers for the copy, and for further reading I recommend The Silvered Heart by Katherine Clements – a piece of historical fiction that nevertheless combines dark happenings with a strong female lead and a heartwarming romance. We can also recommend The Drowning Pool by Syd Moore.
You can read more book reviews or buy Strange Magic: An Essex Witch Museum Mystery (Essex Witches Mystery 1) by Syd Moore at Amazon.co.uk Amazon currently charges £2.99 for standard delivery for orders under £20, over which delivery is free.
You can read more book reviews or buy Strange Magic: An Essex Witch Museum Mystery (Essex Witches Mystery 1) by Syd Moore at Amazon.com.
Like to comment on this review?
Just send us an email and we'll put the best up on the site.