GHOST OF A POTION by Heather Blake
The stretch between Halloween and November 3rd is a rough one for Carly Bell Hartwell; it’s when restless ghosts rise up and seek help from witches like her to cross over. Carly has every intention of lying low this year until the spirit activity dies down, but then Haywood Dodd gets himself murdered at a costume ball she’s attending and her plans go straight out the window.
Haywood can’t find peace until his killer is caught—and he’s determined to haunt Carly in the meantime. Carly’s willing to investigate if it means she can get some peace of her own, but unfortunately, the prime suspect is none other than her boyfriend Dylan’s mother, Patricia Davis Jackson. Patricia despises Carly, and Carly’d like nothing more than to see her rot in jail. That would kill Dylan, though, so now Carly’s stuck trying to clear the odious woman’s name.
Heather Blake’s third Magic Potion Mystery, GHOST OF A POTION, is a quick, fun, whimsical read with a ticking clock for a heartbeat. Blake’s latest features an energetic cast of beautifully drawn characters—mortal and ghostly, alike—and a protagonist who’ll charm you from page one. The construction is clever; Blake burdens nearly every member of her cast with a secret worth killing to protect, resulting in a multifaceted mystery rife with suspects and red herrings. The book’s sense of place is strong, and Blake’s worldbuilding is efficient yet effective.
What ultimately breathes life into Blake’s tale, though, are her characters’ relationships. The Patricia/Dylan/Carly subplot is beautifully handled; Blake both captures and capitalizes upon the complicated nature of the mother-son-girlfriend dynamic. And though I still can’t abide Dylan’s nickname for Carly (what grown woman consents to being called Care Bear?), I love the fact that while their romance isn’t always easy, it is always a true partnership—honest, respectful, and egalitarian.
-Katrina Niidas Holm