USA Today Bestselling Author
All it takes is one morning for Sydney Photographer Lily Bianchi’s life to go off the rails and over a cliff.
A well-dressed English woman turns up at her door, swearing she’s a witch. If that’s not crazy enough, she explains Lily’s brother, James, has been kidnapped and the Paranormal Investigation Bureau needs Lily’s help finding him.
And the craziest part? The Englishwoman tells Lily she’s a witch too. Before she can say, “Where’s my coffee?” she’s on a plane bound for Westerham, England. Unfortunately, England’s not as welcoming as she hoped–she’s barely arrived before she gets set up, arrested and almost shot.
Things can only get better from here, right? Yeah, right…
I was looking for something lighter than my current reading list and this book attracted me with the look of fun, mystery and the clincher, it was free.
This book opens with Lily photographing a wedding, one where the bride is definitely a bridezilla. Fortunately the bride’s father is well aware and gives Lily a most welcome and generous tip. It’s also her birthday and she hasn’t heard from her brother. He always calls on her birthday and she finds herself crying and watching really awful TV.
What really takes the cake is her coffee machine sparking and dying instead of brewing. This is followed by a very static filled call from her sister-in-law Millicent that cuts out and can’t be reconnected. If that wasn’t strange enough, a woman is at her door when she steps out to get her coffee. After rather snarky introductions the woman decides Lily needs coffee before she can have a conversation and lets her go on her way.
Angelica Constance DuPree is not one to be ignored so of course she doesn’t leave Lily alone for long, she has news to impart and it’s not pleasant. She also needs Lily to travel with her to England. This isn’t going to go over well.
This is a favorite scene.
The sun shone on a cool morning, and it looked like the day was going to be gorgeous—weather wise, at least. It may have been rude of me to just leave like that, but I preferred to be safe now rather than dead. And that’s not an overreaction. Trust your gut was one of those sayings I lived by. If I was wrong about Ma’am, I could always apologise later, and we’d laugh about it. Yep, or she wouldn’t laugh and hold it against me forever.
I hurried along the footpath, past an assortment of unit blocks, from red-brick two-storey ones to rendered brick twelve-storey ones. Monday morning brought out a mixture of joggers, surfers, and people dressed for work. I crossed at the traffic lights and soon reached Surfer’s Brew. The delectable fragrance of fresh coffee swirled around me. I breathed it in and sighed. Ah. That was more like it.
Just before entering, I looked back. No sign of my weirdo morning visitor. Maybe my morning was improving. I smiled and stepped up to the counter. “Morning, Frances. Can I get a regular skim cap?” I didn’t get coffee here every day—because I had my coffee machine, or used to have—how depressing—but I visited regularly enough that they knew me. Sometimes I wanted something frothy with chocolate on the top, and I was too lazy to do that at home.
Frances was in her mid-thirties, had gorgeous straight blonde hair, which was pulled back in a sleek ponytail, and an infectious smile. “Hey, chicky. Coming right up. A little birdie told me it was your birthday yesterday. Happy birthday!” She banged used coffee grounds out of the thingamajig and filled it with new ones.
“Aw, thanks. Did you run into the girls last night?” The girls being my besties, Sophie and Michelle.
“Yep. How come you weren’t there? They told me you piked.” She screwed the thingamajig into the machine and pressed the button. And wouldn’t you know, it worked. I wish my machine still worked.
“Big day photographing a wedding. One drink and I would have fallen asleep.” I laughed—it wasn’t too far from the truth. So what if I left out the bit where I had a pity party because my brother hadn’t called. I’d try calling him later. Knowing him, he had a good reason for missing my birthday, and I would keep reminding myself until I knew for sure.
Frances frothed the milk and poured it into the coffee before sprinkling lots of chocolate on the top—she did extra for me, because it was my favourite part. Then she did some magic with a spoon and made a cute little heart on the top of the froth. “There you go.” She smiled, and I handed her four dollars—coffee habits didn’t come cheap.
“Thanks. You’re a lifesaver. See you later.” I waved. She waved. The usual. I stopped just outside the shop, unpopped the lid and licked the chocolatey goodness off it before taking a sip. Heaven. The simple things were really the best.
I replaced the lid and started down the street, contemplating whether I should return to my apartment, and possibly run into Ma’am, or go for that walk. There was nothing like a stroll on the beach to settle my mind. The rolling surf was calming. During summer, I’d go body surfing, but the water was a bit cool now, and I was the first to admit, I was soft.
Hmm, if I went back now and had to deal with Ms Crazy-pants, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my coffee properly. That was an easy decision: walk it was!
But since when was life that easy?
I reached the end of the path and the beginning of the sand. Salty sea spray hazed the air, seagulls wheeled overhead, and the sun warmed my face. Surfers bobbed in the water, waiting for the next wave, and a young mother watched her two kids build a sandcastle. Before I could absorb the peace of the scene, I noticed something, or rather someone, that was out of place: a woman in a drab but well-tailored business suit and low heels with her arms crossed in front of her chest and another self-satisfied smile. Seemed like she only had two expressions: pissed off and smug. I breathed in deeply, and when I exhaled, my serenity went with it. Wasn’t it supposed to work the other way around?
“You can run, but you can’t hide.” Great, she was intimidating me with clichés.
“On a scale of one to ten, your creep factor is about an eight. Think you could tone it down?”
She smiled. It could have even been genuine this time. “At least you have some spunk. You’re going to need it, missy.” Her expression morphed into sad then quickly into serious.
I sipped my coffee. I had a feeling I was going to need all the caffeine support I could get before she was done with me. Angelica nodded. “Unfortunately, you’re right.”
Not again with the mind reading. How was she doing that? “Can you please tell me what you want?”
“Look, we don’t have time to dilly-dally. You appear strong enough, at least, and there’s no way to say this nicely, so I’ll just say it. Your brother, James, is missing. He disappeared seven days ago.”
No amount of coffee could have prepared me for that. My stomach fell as fast as my cup. It hit the ground, still half full, dammit. The lid came off, splashing brown liquid on my runners and shins. A chill sluiced the sun’s warmth from my arms like the reaper’s scythe, leaving goosebumps in its wake. I shivered.
I was transported back to the day my mum’s best friend sat James and me down and explained that our parents weren’t coming home. Ever again. I remembered James gripping my hand and squeezing for dear life. We’d held fast to each other since then, until he’d gone off to the UK. Tears spilled down my cheeks. I wanted to fall to the ground and curl into a ball, but making a scene wasn’t going to help. Was James’s disappearance somehow related to my parents’? Was I next? No, don’t be stupid, Lily. Coincidences exist. That’s all it is.
Ma’am stepped closer and laid a stiff hand on my shoulder. She patted me awkwardly then dropped her hand. I appreciated the gesture: I wasn’t much of a hugger either. My personal space was just as important to me as my right to believe in nothing.
“You look a little pale, dear. I’m sure you have many questions. Let’s return to your apartment and grab your things. We have a plane to catch.”
Lister, Dionne. Witchnapped in Westerham (Paranormal Investigation Bureau Cosy Mystery Book 1) (pp. 13-17). Dionne Lister. Kindle Edition.
Now all things considered this wasn’t so bad, well except for finding out she’s a witch. That was the reason her electronics had gone wonky. However, once they arrived in Westerham things take a turn for the worse. It seems part of Lily’s powers is connected to her photography skills. By taking pictures she can see events as they took place but she keeps ending up arrested and unable to get to the truth of her brother’s disappearance.
Assistance from the arresting officers and Angelica get to the bottom of things in this fun, suspenseful and adventurous read. I will definitely be continuing this series.
5 Contented Purrs for Dionne!
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USA Today bestselling author (November 2017), Dionne Lister is a Sydneysider with a degree in creative writing, two Siamese cats, and is a member of the SFWA. Daydreaming has always been her passion, so writing was a natural progression from staring out the window in primary school, and being an author was a dream she held since childhood.Unfortunately, writing was only a hobby while Dionne worked as a property valuer in Sydney, until her mid-thirties when she returned to study and completed her creative writing degree. Since then, she has indulged her passion for writing while raising two children with her husband. Her books have attracted praise from Apple Books and have reached #1 on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Apple Books charts worldwide, frequently occupying top 100 lists in fantasy.
Dionne works as an editor, has published a YA epic fantasy series called The Circle of Talia, and is currently writing The Rose of Nerine fantasy series and the Paranormal Investigation Bureau cozy mystery series. Shadows of the Realm has been translated into Spanish and Italian, and is available at all ebook stores.