The International Butter Festival has come to town! When Harlow Torrent, part-time journalist and full-time Slip witch stumbles upon a dead body, frozen and drained of blood, she’s pulled into a murder mystery.
Someone has murdered one of the Butter Festival competitors. Was it Zero Bend, punk sculptor extraordinaire with a history of violence? Perhaps Fusion Swan, a sleazy agent playing the publicity game when his clients meet their untimely end.
Between trying to run her struggling online newspaper, dealing with her highly caffeinated cousins Molly and Luce, fending off three meddling witch mothers who will do anything to get their daughters married off (including drugging food with magic potions) and great Aunt Cass who appears to be running an underground laboratory of some kind, Harlow barely has time to breathe, let alone solve a murder.
Romance certainly isn’t on the cards either but the hot scruffy guy new to town seems to have other ideas…
I bought this series in the complete box set. I am reviewing individually as I read.
Harlot Bay is a small seaside tourist town. It has a lot of magical quirkiness and of course a family or two of witches.
The Torrent family lives in a falling down mansion, there are only two parts of it that are livable although there is some hope of restoring the rest at some point.
Harlow is a one of the family and a slip witch, she runs a website of news, trivia and well anything she can think of. She even has an office thanks to the city council offering free rent to new businesses. She also does therapy for a ghost named John, trying to figure out why he’s still here so maybe he can move on. Her cousins Molly and Luce have a souvenir shop called Travelers and her mother and aunts run a bakery The Big Pie and their Aunt Cass, well she does lots of things not all of them legal. Then there’s Harlow’s cat Adam who talks and sleeps in ovens.
As with a lot of families, their mothers all want them to get married and give them grandchildren, so any socializing has to be done on the sly. However, they don’t exactly have boyfriends or even prospects yet. Dinner is an amusing time of bickering and accusations. You know the fun stuff.
The real fun begins when Harlow discovers a dead body while taking photos of the massive amount of butter for the upcoming International Butter Carving Festival. There are few clues, and the Sheriff needs help but can’t actually ask for it. The deceased, Holt Everand is one of the contestants so there’s no lack of suspects. Just for a little more drama there’s also graffiti all over town of the top contender’s name, Zero Bend. There’s also quite a bit of contention between Harlow and the owner of the Harlot Bay Times, Carter
Of course, there would have to be questioning of many people and in a small town you know the journalists would be on top of all of it. The sheriff really has his hands full with Carter though. Harlow just goes with the flow.
This is a favorite scene.
“Mr. Swan, the Harlot Bay Times would like an exclusive interview with you,” Carter said.
“Exclusive? I’ll tell you what: I’ll send both of you fine journalists a press release and see how you report on it tomorrow. Whoever does the best job will receive the exclusive interview. Fair?”
I mumbled something that could have possibly been yes. My reporter side was telling me to get that interview for the story. My witch side was bugs-crawling-on-my-skin itchy and didn’t want to spend any more time with this guy at all.
Carter turned to Sheriff Hardy.
“Do you have any clues as to the identity of the vandal?”
“We’re looking into it. Due to the popularity of the festival, we have a lot of tourists in town, and we are aware this has occurred at other locations Mr. Bend has traveled. As Mr. Swan said, there may be some excited fans out there. We’re going to find the culprit and anyone who directed their actions and pursue them with the full force of the law. Let’s just hope no one is stupid enough to do it again.”
The way Sheriff Hardy said it, I knew he didn’t believe for one second that it was some random groupie or crazy fan. And that last bit? A clear warning to Fusion Swan.
Sheriff Hardy pointed at me.
Oh, what questions did I have? Um . . . none, really. I’d found the body, and so I had known most of what he’d said already. I reached into my bag and pulled out the memory stick with the photos on it. I slid it across the table.
“Here are the photos I took this morning before I found Mr. Everand,” I said.
“I want a copy of those!” Carter said quickly.
“These are crime scene photos and I’ll decide if we release them, if at all.”
“It’s not fair! She’s going to report on this murder, and she has the crime scene photos and I don’t?”
I turned to Carter, my mouth hanging open in disbelief.
“Are you kidding? I was there, that’s why I have the photos. And I’ll tell you this: there’s nothing in them. It’s all just butter, piles and piles of butter.”
I left out my final photo of the gaping black hole in reality where Holt Everand had been.
“It’s bias and I won’t stand for it,” Carter sniped.
Sheriff Hardy sighed and rubbed his face. Last year Carter had written an article that strongly hinted at some sort of corruption “high up” in the Harlot Bay police force. The evidence to base this vague attack on? An “unnamed source” within the department had advised that local businesses provided generous benefits to the police. Big Pie Bakery was named as one of these businesses, and when my mother and aunts marched down to Carter’s office, he accused them of giving the police seven donuts when they only ordered six.
Yup, corruption from up on high.
I’ll say this for Carter: he has some guts to face down three angry witches.
The craziest thing that happened after that was while the aforementioned three angry witches were cooking up a revenge plot, Aunt Cass told them to stop being babies and said that any publicity was good publicity. She pretty much banned them from fighting back, and she was probably right. Sales at the bakery increased after that.
“I will look at the photographs, and if they do not contain anything we wish to keep to ourselves for the moment, I will have Mary send you a copy. I suspect you will have to ask Harlow’s permission to publish them, however, as she is the one who owns the copyright.”
“I do not give my permission to publish,” I said to Carter sweetly.
“Bias,” he muttered to himself. Sheriff Hardy stood up.
The meeting was over.
“Unless there is anything else, I need to get back to work. Mr. Swan, if you could arrange with your client to come down here, I would appreciate it. Harlow, may I talk with you a moment about a different matter?”
“Looking forward to those articles,” Fusion said, pointing at me and Carter before leaving.
Carter stopped in the doorway. “I’m not going to put up with bias,” he declared before marching away, his eyebrows twitching like crazy.
Sheriff Hardy waited until they were gone before sitting down again. He reached over and turned off my recorder.
“This is not for print. Holt was drained of blood, and I mean almost completely. He had some other kind of liquid in his veins, which we’ve yet to identify.”
“He was sitting in a frozen puddle of blood.”
“A little bit of blood goes a long way. The rest of it was gone. Take a look at this.”
Sheriff Hardy opened the folder he’d brought in and slid a photo across to me. It was the back of Holt Everand’s neck, the photo taken on the autopsy room table. He had a huge bruise in the shape of a handprint across his neck. You could clearly see the finger marks.
“What do you make of that?”
I examined the photo for a moment but didn’t get more out of it than I’d already seen.
“That’s a bruise in the shape of a hand.”
“A bruise is blood that has been drawn to the surface of the skin. Do you know . . . anything . . . that might cause such an injury?”
Sheriff Hardy looked at me, and I suddenly understood he was talking about witch-related matters. There are rumors aplenty about our family, and the way our decrepit mansion looms over the town certainly doesn’t help, nor do the various shenanigans/possible crimes Aunt Cass has pulled over the years. Sheriff Hardy’s family has lived in Harlot Bay as long as ours has, and he knows all the stories. He also knows that sometimes our family can help when traditional methods of investigation have failed. I’m not sure of all the details, but I know Aunt Cass has helped him out in exchange for him overlooking certain events the police might otherwise be interested in (such as her illegal fireworks business she was running for a while and sometimes starts up again when she feels like it).
It’s one of those “he knows, we know, he knows we know, we know he knows” situations. He’ll never come right out and say it, so this is where we end up: an online journalist being asked questions outside her official circle of knowledge.
“I . . . may be able to find out something about that. I’ll check with some of my sources,” I told him.
He nodded and slipped the photo back into the folder.
Lake, Tess. Torrent Witches Cozy Mysteries Complete Box Set (Books 1 – 10) Kindle Locations (1071-1123). Tess Lake. Kindle Edition.
There’s also a tourist type that comes looking for Harlow, Jack Bishop. They don’t get much information out of him, but he appears to be interested in Harlow.
We get to meet Holly and Luce’s boyfriend interests in this one, Ollie the librarian and Will the landscaper in a dinner set up by the mothers. Even Jack the tourist gets pulled in on that one. An interesting twist is that Harlow invites the Sheriff to be a buffer.
There’s much fun, laughter, suspense and lots of surprises too!
5 Contented Purrs for Tess!
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I’m all about Cozy Witches! Mystery, murder, magic!