A small English town.
An enchanted tea room.
A murder at a horse race.
Can this newbie witch
and her vampire friends
catch the killer?
Minnie Wells, here! I was hoping for a fun weekend at the biggest horse races in England. But instead, I discover the body of an infamous horse trainer, murdered in the stables!
Now I’ve got to team up with my sassy black cat familiar to catch the killer, and clear the track’s veterinarian of the bogus charges against him.
But as I wade through a long list of suspects, from rival jockeys to angry animal rights activists, I’m afraid I’ve caught the killer’s notice.
Can I solve the case before I’m next on the chopping block?
Minnie has been expanding the tearoom’s reach and her latest achievement is the races. One of the horses running is named Jane Austin and is a favorite. It took a lot of persuasion to get Fitz to agree to this three-day outing, but they are there.
The first race we get to see, has Jane Austin losing. A big surprise for everyone. Minnie also sees Jane Austin’s jockey being yelled at by someone, later identified as the trainer Timothy Pipe.
She also runs into her mentor and friend Mim. Mim’s there to help her veterinarian friend Jack protect the horses from injuries on the track. Mim convinces her to help with the charms to protect the horses the next morning, early, very early. This is where things change for everyone.
My friend glanced behind me at the veterinarian, and then leaned close, lowering her voice to almost a whisper. The horse ducked its head between us, as if it, too, was listening in.
“Two years ago, this famous—I should say infamous—trainer, Timmy Pipe, fought Jack tooth and nail to allow one of the horses to run. Jack didn’t think it was safe, but Timmy Pipe is notoriously hard-nosed. He threw a fit, and because he’s kind of a big deal in the horse racing world, Jack’s call got overturned and they let the horse run.”
I frowned, my stomach tight. I had a feeling the story didn’t end well.
Mim’s eyes filled with pain. “It was awful. On one of the final jumps, the horse fell and broke its leg. Horses aren’t like us; once they’re injured it’s very hard for them to heal and recover.”
Mim looked down and toed the hay-covered ground with her boot. “The poor horse had to be put down.” I brought a hand to my mouth. “Oh, that’s awful.”
Mim pressed her lips tight together. “Jack’s never forgiven himself… or Timmy Pipe, for that matter. It traumatized the jockey, Penny Zhang, too.” She pointed at me. “She’s the one I told you about yesterday—the one who’s become a protestor.”
I shook my head. How horrible. Not only for the poor horse who lost its life, but for Jack and Penny as well.
The name Timmy Pipe sounded familiar… I thought back to the races yesterday and then remembered Dominik had pointed him out to me on the television. He was the bald guy who’d been yelling at his jockey after Jane Austen failed to win the race. That, plus everything Mim had just told me, convinced me that I didn’t like this Timmy Pipe guy.
Mim squeezed my shoulder. “You can see now why this job of charming the horses is so important. We want to prevent anything like that from happening again.”
I nodded, more eager now to learn how to help these horses and keep them safe. Despite having to drag myself out of bed at the early hour, I now felt proud and excited to be able to help in a meaningful way. “Okay, so what do we do?”
Mim winked at me. “There’s my girl.” She turned back to the brown horse, who snorted and gently tossed its head. “Again, we’re not charming them to win; we just want to keep them out of harm’s way. We’re basically just modifying a protection spell.” She gave me a serious look. “You remember we went over those last month, right, pet?”
I fought not to roll my eyes. “Yes, I remember.” I bit my lip. “Could you refresh my memory though?”
She chuckled and held both palms a few inches away from the horse’s face. “You want to find the energy in your palms. It might feel tingly, or like pulsing. Once you tap into that, focus your energy there, and imagine creating a protective bubble around the horse. It may take the form of a hard shield, or maybe more of a gentle cloud, but either way the goal here is to protect the horse from harm or injury.”
She raised her thin brows at me, then tossed her wiry gray hair back over her shoulder. “Sometimes it helps to focus the energy if you recite a little spell.” She gestured at the horse as she stepped back. “Why don’t you give it a try?”
I sucked in a deep breath and stepped forward. The horse blinked its long, dark lashes at me, and I couldn’t help but smile back at it. I tentatively reached a hand up, and when it didn’t try to bite me or knock my hand away, I gently rubbed its smooth nose and forehead. “Hello, beauty.”
My stomach clenched at the mere thought of any harm befalling such a gorgeous animal. I sucked in a deep breath and blew it out shakily. I held my chilled hands near the horse’s face, just as Mim had done, then closed my eyes and tried to tap into the sensations in my palms.
Not much happened at first.
But I kept breathing and kept waiting. Eventually, I sensed a bit of a tingle in my palms, and then more of a strong pulsing, throbbing. I focused on that feeling and sent more energy and magic to my palms. It felt as though they sort of filled and charged up, the pulsing becoming quicker, stronger. Once my palms felt full, I turned my focus to a spell. I made it up on the spot.
“You’re very pretty horse, I want to keep you safe of course, So on all your runs and jumps today, May magic keep all harm away.”
A tingly warmth washed over my whole body, from the top of my head down to my toes, like stepping into a warm shower. And then as quickly as it had come, it whooshed through me, out my palms, and then was gone. I opened my eyes and turned to Mim, who beamed at me.
She gave an approving nod. “Well done, pet, well done.” She nodded towards the horse. “Quite a strong charm you cast there.”
I couldn’t tell any difference in the horse, but I’d take her word for it. I grinned, feeling quite proud of myself… even a little giddy.
Mim lifted her small, pointed chin. “You must have a great teacher.”
I shook my head at her as she walked, chuckling, past me to the next stall.
“One down, about a hundred to go.”
My breath caught. Was she serious? Casting that spell had been a rush, but it also left me a little bit shaky and tired. It kind of felt like a caffeine crash.
Did Mim seriously charm all these horses by herself, every day of the races? I trailed behind her, with a newfound appreciation for her skills as a witch. Not to mention her stamina. She had to be in her sixties but had more energy than I did on a good day.
I followed her to the next stall, while Jack examined a horse a couple of doors down from us.
The dappled gray had just stuck her head out the opening when Jack let out a strangled cry. His clipboard clattered to the ground, and he staggered back, away from the stall, a weathered hand over his mouth. Mim and I exchanged wide-eyed looks, then dashed down the row to join him.
Mim gripped his arm. “Jack, are you alright?”
I followed his horrified gaze to the stable and approached the partly open door.
Jack’s warning came too late. I stood in the doorway and gazed at the man sprawled on the ground inside the stall—blank eyes staring up at the ceiling, unmoving. A pool of red blood stained the hay near his bald head. I froze, my feet rooted and chest heaving, then whirled to face Mim and Jack. I pulled my phone from my pocket and with shaking hands dialed 999.
“I’m calling the police.” My voice came out hoarse as the phone rang.
Jack lowered his hand from his mouth and gave me a nod. “Good thinking.” He squeezed Mim’s hand, then strode past me and knelt beside the man.
Jack placed two fingers on his neck as I held my breath, waiting. After a long moment he looked up and shook his head.
The emergency operator answered, and I put my phone on speaker. “What’s your emergency?”
“We found a man—he’s dead.” I didn’t like how often I had to make these calls lately.
“Please stay calm.”
My heart thundered in my chest as I waited for the operator’s instructions.
“Do you know the deceased?”
Jack’s nostrils flared. “It’s Timmy Pipe.”
Johnson, Erin. English After-Doom Tea: The Magical Tea Room Mysteries. Kindle Locations (324-380). Kindle Edition.
It’s not until Jack’s arrested that Minnie gets involved with the investigation. He’s innocent, and Timmy had plenty of enemies.
We meet some interesting characters in this one, but as always, my favorites are the tearoom guys. Fitz even gets flirted with in this one, much to Minnie’s dismay.
I truly love the growing relationship between Fitz and Minnie, its’ obvious to everyone but them.
This is a page-turning read with plenty of twists, some hairy situations and a few surprises as well.
I am already ready the next book, I can’t wait to see how this romance progresses.
5 Contented Purrs for Erin!
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A native of Arizona, Erin loves her new home in the Pacific Northwest! She writes paranormal cozy novels– stories that are mysterious, magical, and will hopefully make you laugh.
When not writing, she’s hiking, napping with her dogs, and losing at trivia night.
Erin’s had a ton of different jobs, from blackjack dealer to PA on a horror movie to Pilates instructor but has finally embraced her true calling as a writer. Thanks so much for your interest and for supporting her!