Monday, June 9

Witch Way to Murder – Shirley Damsgaard

Small town librarian Ophelia is happy with an unobtrusive life, though she does keep herself to herself – after the events of four years ago she’s careful not to allow herself to get too close. In fact, aside from her ‘herbalist’ grandmother, Ophelia’s closest human relationship is probably with ditzy Darci, who also works at the library. That is, until a travelling chemical salesman named Rick Davis starts asking questions about a recent spate of thefts of chemicals that are the precursors to meth and, against her wishes, Ophelia becomes drawn into a murder enquiry – a mystery that will force her to confront the magickal heritage passed down her maternal line for generations.
I found Witch Way to Murder profoundly annoying, and the only reason I didn’t put it down at page three was because I was at the hairdresser’s and the only alternative way hair design magazines. Where to start with why? How about the hyperbolic writing style – the novel opens with the lines:

Rising panic clenched my stomach. Clammy sweat made me itch beneath my arms. The high heels of my boots beat a staccato rhythm on the empty sidewalk as I rushed to the door.
It’s in this prelude that we first learn that someone died four years before the main action, a man who Ophelia should somehow have saved, though who Brian was, how and why he died, don’t emerge until the final third of the book. All we learn initially is that “on that dreary November night four years ago, the first stone in the wall around my heart clicked into place.”
There are the odd unsubtle lumps of exposition, designed to impart knowledge to outsider Rick, all tell and no show. Rick elicits information, too, asking questions of everyone in a significantly unsubtle way, particularly considering he’s an undercover reporter. Sorry if this revelation has ruined the novel for you.
Another thing that irritated me both times it occurred was technology based - Witch Way is copyrighted 2005, yet Rick is surprised the library has a computer, let alone one with internet access, and Darci (who’s in her twenties) says “You must teach me how to use one of these. This is fascinating.” What’s she doing? Using the mouse to swirl a cursor around the screen. My mother’s in her late sixties and uses email, my father banks online… I have a suspicion this first ‘Ophelia and Abby’ novel was published quite some time after it was first written. Even if it were not for this tip off, this is clearly intended as a series - the last line in Witch Way? “My hackles stood up and my skin tingled. She couldn’t possibly mean… Oh no, here we go again.” Yeah, off you go alone, Ophelia – I’m staying right here. - Alex

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