The Witches of Hemlock Grove, Boxset: Volumes 1 – 3 Monty’s Tale Press in e-book format by Kennedy Chase.
Introduction/characters: The stories center on activity of protagonist Grace Angelos, a widow now approaching middle-age who is a former local police officer still hired to consult on difficult cases. This incidentally, helps sustain the family bakery business. Her special deductive powers stem from her occult background along with hints acquired from her constant companions Noah, a chocolate Labrador, and a white cat Charity she has reason to believe embody elements of her deceased father and mother. The Angelos family, because of these reputedly occult powers, originally fled during the Salem Witch Hunt and eventually landed in the extremely picturesque New England coastal town of Hemlock Grove. Other recurring characters are: Detective Zackery Jackson, her former trainee with whom she still works well; her older sister Joy, an excellent baker but with a compulsive desire to prepare magic potions to ‘nudge’ fate in a desired direction – an activity that Grace constantly must guard against because of the disastrous results of a former action by her mother who was a very powerful maker of such potions; Joy’s husband Nathaniel, now the closely knit family’s ‘jack-of all-trades’; her even older sister Hope who has clairvoyant powers but mostly is reclusive after never really having recovered from losing her husband in the Vietnam war; Dario Donatalli, the suave, handsome owner of the local bookstore who the reader discovers in the first volume to be more than he appears; a host of other town and/or nearby residents of varying importance to one or more of the individual tales.
Plots: A Mystic Murder, the first volume, centers on a local bar owner, Greg Pelt being found dead in the Angelos family bakery’s oven. This could result in a disastrous situation. The family is committed to a large catering job which really is needed for their business survival. Since this is a small town where everyone knows everyone, food prepared in the same oven would NOT be well received. Thus, something must be done about getting the food baked and the perpetrator must be discovered and apprehended quickly. Unfortunately there are numerous suspects: the King brothers Callum, Abe and David, were constantly feuding with the Mannings; Greg recently had thrown family members out of his bar at the point of a shotgun; Michelle Deschamps had been romantically, but secretly involved with Greg as had been his barmaid Casey Foster and a young King family daughter; also Francisca, another local dweller with special talents who was involved with Abe. Mystical activity as expected, plays an important part in the ultimate resolution of the situation and the reader moves on to the next volume in the series.
Plot: A Cryptic Case. During the official reception celebrating the town’s founding in March 16, 1916 the mayor is murdered and Dario’s extremely rare book is stolen in a highly unusual manner. After interviewing Stephania the lady of Thornwood Manor and other residents, Grace and Zack strongly suspect a young couple that were noisily demonstrating during the event and the Mayor’s ex-wife who drunkenly performed a ranting denunciation of the mayor. Then a visit to the unpleasant seller of potion ingredients, Louis Merlowe who ‘under persuasion’ is able to identify the ingredients that produce a powerful spell for disguise and also to identify to whom he had sold them. This leads to still another suspect and the tale ultimately ends in spectacular fashion as Grace, with important help from Noah and Charity finally must fight through strong black magic spells to solve both crimes.
Plot: A Tangled Teaser finds Grace and Dario on holiday staying as guests of Anthony Cava, an artist friend of Dario’s who is the new resident of a home in the expensive Ocean View enclave. After settling in, talk centers on a report of smuggling of Viking antique jewelry that according to rumor, had been discovered at a sunken ship in the cove. A murder of the local diving instructor suddenly occurs, gradually is tied together with the Viking artefacts and a smuggling ring involving some of the cove’s residents as well as newcomers. Ultimately another interesting conclusion is provided.
Discussion: These three enjoyable murder mysteries are solved by usual routine methods with associated assists from individuals versed in various aspects of witchcraft. The plots are interesting, well-executed and move well. The second tale depends largely upon the occult while the first and third are more balanced. The characters would benefit from a little more ‘body’ but overall are acceptable.
4* Enjoyable murder mysteries with a little aid from witchcraft.