Brighton Longfield is kinda bad at life. She’s divorced, childless, and she just got fired… again…
With dwindling savings and few prospects, she packs her possessions into a U-Haul and sets out for the little town of Coventry where she inherited a dilapidated old house from her Great Aunt “Mad” Maude Tuttlesmith.
Coventry is supposed to be a stop in the road for Brighton. The plan is to fix up the house, sell it, and then figure out what to do with her life.
You know what they say about the best-laid plans…
Coventry isn’t your typical small town. At one time, it was home to two powerful families of witches. But, the Skeenbauer and Tuttlesmith families couldn’t put their differences aside, and eventually, the feuding drove the Tuttlesmith witches out of town.
The matriarch of the Skeenbauer family isn’t pleased to have a descendant of the Tuttlesmith witches return. The thing is, the Tuttlesmiths stopped practicing magic when they left Coventry, and Brighton has no idea she’s a witch. She’s about to get a big surprise.
Oh, and there’s also a dead guy in an alley behind the diner. Brighton finds his body one night after stopping in for a stack of pancakes, and of course, the town’s hunky sheriff starts to give her the side eye. But, a lot of people wanted the victim dead, and that only complicates the investigation.
There’s a murderer on the loose in Coventry, and Brighton’s got to learn to harness her powers to avoid the killer’s snare.
Brighton Longfield is divorced, childless and has lost her job again. The only thing she has is Hangman’s House in Coventry, she’s inherited it from her great aunt ‘Mad’ Maude Tuttlesmith. As she approaches the town her car sputters and dies, with dwindling funds she just gets out of the car raises the hood and begs it to start with promises of the best oil changes money can but once she has the funds. To her surprise it works and she’s on her way once more.
Hangman’s House is rundown and definitely needs a thorough cleaning. After a bat in the master bedroom closet scares the living daylights out of her, she decides to stay a night at Mama Hattie’s. It’s a basement room and definitely not worth the money, even with dinner and breakfast included, but it’s the only place in town.
At dinner she meets Professor Max Harkin who’s surprised she doesn’t know of him. However, everyone is shocked and Cassidy the manager ran to the kitchen to burst out laughing when she professed to not being interested in his specialty of the paranormal. Let’s just say Brighten is in for quite the surprise as she settles here.
Once back at Hangman’s House Brighton is surprised to find as she cleans, the house is in better shape than she originally thought. A visit to the grocery store leads to interesting reactions from some of the shoppers. But it’s an encounter she witnesses at Prue’s Chocolate Treasures between the owner, Prue and Professor Harkin that leaves her angry and without her treat.
Back at home she finds a cat on the porch, she doesn’t let him in though. It’s not until she’s rehanging the now clean drapes that she sees him again outside the window. When she goes outside to shoo him away again, he scoots into the house and settles in front of the fireplace. She hasn’t admitted yet but she now has a cat. However, this is not just any cat.
Treating herself to dinner at Dumbledore’s Diner, she has to share a table because of the crowd. It’s here she meets Annika Skeenbauer and learns of the feud between their families, although Annika doesn’t seem to be holding any grudges toward her.
Deciding to go home a different way, Brighton traverses the alley behind Dumbledore’s only to find a body. The body of Professor Harkin. As she’s panicking the cat shows up and she can hear him talking to her and calming her as she calls 911. Of course, she thinks she’s imagining things. This is when she meets the Sheriff Thorn Wilson who advises her not to leave town.
This is a favorite scene.
The thing he said about me being part of an active investigation sounded ominous. “He must suspect that I killed Harkin,” I said to the cat who was strolling next to me as we make our way home. “And I don’t know if I buy that returning my U-Haul is just small-town hospitality. He must think I’ll try to run off or something.”
“Telling you that was just standard operating procedure, Brighton. It doesn’t mean that you’re an actual suspect. Besides, you didn’t do it, so there’s not going to be any evidence linking you to his death,” the cat responded. “And it is small-town hospitality. Not everyone is Coventry is so friendly, but Thorn is one of the good guys.”
“That should make me feel better, but it doesn’t. This whole thing makes me anxious. Plus, I almost tripped over a dead body. That’s pretty gross.”
I stopped chatting and stared straight ahead when I realized that I was talking to the cat. My breathing became shallow when it further occurred to me that I’d very vividly imagined him answering me.
“It’s going to be all right,” the cat said. “I’m so going nuts. I’m going to end up in the asylum like Maude,” I said to myself and not the cat. “These things run in families. And now I’m talking to myself.”
“I’m not going anywhere just because you feel like you need to pretend like you can’t hear me,” the cat said. “We’re in this together for reasons that are going to become clear soon.”
I reached the edge of my yard and hurried toward the front door. After I practically leapt up the steps, I paused at door. As turned the knob and walked through, I felt a chill run down my spine. Again, I was on the verge of some sort of realization, realization, but it completely fizzled once I was inside. I decided that it must have been stress-induced anxiety from finding a dead body.
One thing was for sure, I felt like I needed a proper bath after spending time in the alley with a dead body. Even if I didn’t touch it and I was only in the alley for a minute, it felt like some of the ick had seeped into me. So I ran a tub of hot water and poured in some of my favorite lavender relaxation bubble bath.
I was just relaxing in the tub trying to clear my mind when the cat jumped up on the counter and knocked the bottle of bubble bath on the floor. “Hey,” I scolded, but then I glanced at my phone and realized that what I’d thought was just a minute was nearly a half hour. I’d almost fallen asleep in the tub, and the cat had saved me. “Sorry,” I said as I pushed myself to my feet.
It had been a long day, and what I needed most was to get to bed. After drying off, I opened the blinds to the room and put on my pajamas. The bed looked warm and inviting, but I was afraid I’d lie awake thinking about Harkin.
Those fears were unfounded, though. The weight of the day pressed on my eyelids, and soon enough, I was ready to drift off again. Seconds before sleep took me, the cat jumped up on my pillow.
“Hey,” I said. “I’m thankful that you saved me from drowning in the bathtub and all, but I said you had to stay off my pillow, cat.”
“My name is not cat,” he said haughtily. “My name is Merimus, but you may call me Meri if it suits you. I am the Tuttlesmith family familiar, and I am at your service, Brighton. But I would prefer to be called by my name and not cat.”
“I’m dreaming,” I said and scrunched my eyes closed as tight as I could. “I have to be dreaming.”
“You’re not dreaming and, Brighton, I’m talking to you. Closing your eyes isn’t going to stop you from hearing me.”
So I grabbed the covers and pulled them up over my head. “I don’t want to be crazy. I don’t want to live in an institution,” I mumbled to myself.
“You don’t need to go to an institution, Brighton. You’re not crazy, and neither was Maude,” Meri said. “She was the best of the Tuttlesmith witches, and that scared the wrong people.”
I tossed the covers back and sat up in the bed with my legs crossed. “You need to stop talking because cats cannot talk,” I said. “You cannot talk, and I cannot hear you. I just need to get some sleep.”
“You can hear me and let me tell you a little bit about why,” Meri began. “I’m a familiar. That means that I’m like your magical assistant. That’s the easiest way for me to explain it. I’m not a witch, and I never was, but you are. Your entire family is. Maude was too. She wasn’t mad at all, and I’m sure if you think back very hard you can remember her talking about her cat or you’ll remember seeing pictures of her with me in them. Think hard, Brighton.”
I was about to put my fingers in my ears and start singing when I recalled a picture my grandmother had shown me of Maude when she was much younger. Maude did have a big black cat named Meri. When I was little, I’d always assumed it was a girl named Mary, though.
“No,” I said. “It just can’t be.”
“It is, and I am in your service. At one time, I was the familiar for the Skeenbauer witches, but I might have dropped a house on one of them or something by accident. It’s hard to recall,” he said and swished his tail as if to sweep the memory away. “Either way, they cursed me to serve the Tuttlesmith family for eternity. The only way I’ll ever be free of my service to your family is if the last Tuttlesmith or Skeenbauer witch dies. They were my family, but now you’re my family. Which I am totally thrilled about. No really, it’s amazing.”
“You’re kind of snarky,” I said. “Wait, Skeenbauer? That’s Annika’s last name. So she’s a witch and I’m a witch, and our families are involved in some sort of witch feud? And you were their familiar, but they cursed you and sent you away? That’s terrible. I’m so sorry.”
I felt very bad for him. Being cast out when you were no longer useful was a feeling I could identify with wholeheartedly.
“That’s the very abbreviated version,” Meri responded.
“Well, it’s going to stay abbreviated because I’m going to sleep, and when I wake up, I’ll realize this was all a very sad but realistic dream. Because cats can’t talk, and witches don’t exist.” I lay down, rolled over and pulled the covers up over my head again. I heard Meri make a tsking sound, but he settled down against my back again. I stared out through the open blinds for a few minutes trying to make sense of what was going on, but sleep won quickly as I drifted off.
Bourgeois, Sara. Wicked Witches of Coventry: Books One – Eleven. Kindle Locations (692-737). Kindle Edition.
It seems the cat, Meri has much to say and Brighton has a conversation first with her mother, who doesn’t help and then her grandmother who does.
The attic, proves to be a library of old books, and some of them she can’t read. In looking for help she meets Remy, Annika’s cousin in the Archives of the Courthouse. She also manages to have a confrontation with Amelda Skeenbauer, Annika’s grandmother, who was responsible for Maude being placed in a psychiatric hospital.
We meet a lot of people in this book, I’ve mentioned the most important ones. Those who help her solve the murder and clear her name and those who become fast friends and romantic interests.
I am reading the boxset, so I’ve already started the next book.
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Sara Bourgeois is a Midwesterner through and through. She spends her time writing, reading, herding cats, and standing in her driveway during tornado warnings. (You can’t see them from the basement.)