A Cast-Off Coven is the second book in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series. In the first book, Secondhand Spirits, we met Lily Ivory, a witch who recently moved to San Francisco after being run out of her hometown in Texas (we don’t know why yet). She has an affinity for old clothes — she can feel the previous owner’s past emotions in them — so she opened a vintage clothing store which is becoming successful because she has a talent for pairing her customers with the exactly the right items. In the first novel Lily made new friends, gained Oscar the goblin for a familiar, met a hot investigative journalist named Max, and solved a murder.
Now Lily has been asked to come to the local Fine Arts school because the students think there may be a ghost living in a closet full of vintage clothing. In return for Lily’s ghostbusting services, they’ll give her the clothes. But on Lily’s first visit to the school, someone is murdered. This looks suspicious because Lily has only been in town for a few months and it’s the second murder she’s been associated with. As Lily tries to solve the crime, she manages to stir up something evil and she’s the only one who can prevent more mayhem in San Francisco.
So far the WITCHCRAFT MYSTERY series has been quite a fun read. San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district makes a great setting for a vintage clothing store and it’s clear that Juliet Blackwell knows the area. Lily and her friends are sweet (not snarky and sarcastic), Oscar the scared goblin is adorable (he masquerades as a pot-bellied pig when Lily’s in public), and Max is an appealing love interest. In this installment we get to know each of them a little better. The romance takes a backseat to the plot and love scenes happen off camera. There is little humor, the language is clean, and the murders are not gruesome. These books are definitely cozy mysteries — not paranormal romance or urban fantasy — but the supernatural elements are strong.
I’ve got a few minor quibbles that I’ve noticed but which haven’t affected my enjoyment of this series too much (yet). One is that nearly every guy Lily meets (the reporter, the police detective, the male witch, the new fine arts professor) is hot, which seems unlikely (or maybe I just need to visit to San Francisco). Another issue, which is a common one for cozy mysteries, is that the puzzle pieces fall too neatly together. Lily tends to be in just the right place to get just the right clue, even if she doesn’t yet realize it’s a clue. (Lily can occasionally be a little dense when it comes to clues and there were a couple of times that I wanted to smack her to let her know she was looking at one). I was willing to overlook these small problems and hope they don’t become bigger ones later in the series.
I listened to Tantor Audio’s version of A Cast-Off Coven which was read by Xe Sands. I thought she did a great job. Her slight Southern accent for Lily was perfect and, believe me, Southern accents can be painfully annoying if the narrator isn’t careful. Xe Sands also managed to make the men sound like men — another important feature for this type of story. I’m planning to pick up the next audiobook, Hexes and Hemlines. I’m hoping to see it go on sale at Audible soon but, if it doesn’t, I’m willing to spend one of my credits for it.