Thursday, February 18, 2021

Review Bait and Witch by Angela M. Sanders book 1 in the Witch Way Librarian series Kensington Publishers

Today I'm so happy to be sharing Angela's latest novel, and first in a brand new, Witch Way Library, paranormal cozy series.

ISBN-13:  9781496728746
Publisher: Kensington Publishers
Release Date: 12-29-2020
Length: 336pp
Source: Publisher for Review
Buy It: Publisher/Amazon/B&N/IndieBound


Librarian Josie Way moved to small-town Oregon to lay low. Instead, thanks to newfound magic abilities—and a killer on the loose—she’s leapt out of the frying pan and into a cauldron of trouble . . .

Josie Way loved working among the Library of Congress’s leather-scented stacks—until she uncovered corruption and made herself a target. As Wilfred, Oregon’s new librarian, Josie can stay undercover until the case goes to court. But life in this little town isn’t as subdued as she expected. The library, housed in a a Victorian mansion, is slated to be bulldozed. Still digesting the news that her safe haven is about to become scrap lumber, Josie discovers a body in the woods . . .

Almost as shocking, Josie learns that she’s descended from a long line of witches—and her powers have suddenly sprung to life. With help from a spoiled alley cat who just may be her familiar, Josie’s thumbing through a catalog of suspects, hoping she can conjure a way to save her library—and her life. 

Read an excerpt:

I scanned the passing countryside in vain for signs of life. Fir trees pressed in over the pitted asphalt. After a few miles, the forest opened to a valley sparsely dotted with farmhouses, only one lit in the night. I prayed I hadn’t made a fatal mistake.
The driver hadn’t said more than a few words the whole hour-long drive from the airport.
“This job looks fascinating,” I said, hoping to spark conversation. “Why did the last librarian leave?”
The driver was a tall gent with a cowboy hat and an inscrutable expression. Every time the pickup hit a bump, his hat dented against the roof. “Didn’t work out,” he said.
I waited for more, but nothing came. I lightened my tone and tried a different approach. “When will we be in Wilfred?”
“Ain’t no Wilfred.”
My heart lodged in my throat. “What do you mean?”
Had they tracked me down already? The driver didn’t look like a for-hire killer, but I was no expert. My hand crept to the door handle. I was ready to jump, no matter how fast the truck was going, when he finally responded.
“Ain’t no Wilfred since the mill closed.”
“I was hired as the Wilfred librarian.”
“Sure. Folks still call it Wilfred, that’s all.”
Calm down, I told myself. I was still shaky. When the plane had passed somewhere over the Midwest, I’d felt a visceral snap and jerked so violently that the woman in the next seat had fanned me with her magazine and asked if she should call the flight attendant. I’d gulped from my water bottle and forced myself to breathe. After a moment, the internal earthquake had mellowed to tremors. I hadn’t felt the same since.
The truck slowed. There was nothing around us but a copse of trees intersected by a dirt lane.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Slowing for the speed trap,” the driver—Lyndon Forster, he’d told me—said. He shifted up. “Never mind. We’re clear. We’re just about to the library.”
A minute later we passed a few storefronts and a tavern with a nearly empty parking lot. I knew Wilfred was a small town, but I’d expected at least a stop sign. Rural Oregon couldn’t be more different than the crowded sidewalks and high-rises I was used to back home in D.C.
We crossed a narrow river, then hooked an immediate right to climb a gravel lane. Lyndon parked in a circular driveway and cut the lights. In front of us loomed a three-story Victorian mansion replete with gingerbread trim and a central tower. We might have driven into a Victoria Holt gothic novel.
“We’re here,” he said.
“You’ve got to be kidding.”
The woman who’d hired me had said I’d be living above the library, and I’d envisioned a modern apartment atop a generic municipal building, not much different from my one-bedroom apartment back home. I hadn’t had time to ask a lot of questions.
Too late now. I stepped out of the truck. Crisp autumn air filled my lungs. It had to be near midnight, and a chiffon veil of moonlight filtered through the oak trees ringing the mansion.
“Just point me toward the door, and I’ll take my bag and leave you to the rest of your night. I hope you don’t have a long drive.” In fact, I hoped he had a very long drive to somewhere far, far away. The man gave me the creeps.
“Nope,” he said. “I’m the caretaker here. Got a little place out back.” He grabbed my suitcase and ambled up the steps but bypassed the double doors in front. He stopped before rounding the corner. “This way. We use the service entrance.”
I took a deep breath and followed. Maybe it was for the best. They’d never find me here, that was for sure.
* * *
We climbed a narrow staircase, Lyndon hefting my suitcase over his shoulder like a sacrificial goat. The hall was cold and smelled of beeswax. Two flights up, he extracted a ring of keys from his Levi’s and unlocked the door. He set down the suitcase.
We stood in a hall that looked over the old house’s central atrium, open all the way to the third-floor ceiling. A stained-glass window set in the roof glowed dull red and blue with moonlight. Below us, two floors of shadowed rooms that must have once been the house’s bedrooms and parlors held bookshelves.
“Here we have the living room,” he said.
I stuck my head into a dark room with mullioned windows and the dim shapes of a sofa and chairs.
“Next is the bedroom.” He waved his hand toward the next door, closed, but made no move toward invading those quarters.
“Here’s the kitchen. Not too large, but plenty big for you, I reckon.” The bloated form of a midcentury stove was all I could make out in the dark. Lyndon turned to examine me as if for the first time and drew his bushy eyebrows together. “You feeling okay? You seem kind of jumpy.”
“I’m fine,” I lied. We moved on.
“The bathroom.” The mint-green bathtub and sink clearly hadn’t been updated since the Eisenhower administration. “Here are the keys. I’ll show you more once you get settled in.” He touched the brim of his hat and disappeared down the hall. After a moment, I heard the door shut and the solid thunk of a bolt thrown in place. Well.
The apartment was quiet but for the faraway sound of crickets. I rolled my suitcase to the bedroom and clicked on the lamp on the dresser. Pale light showed an armchair and a bed with an elaborately carved headboard that stretched nearly to the ceiling. Someone had left a jug of wildflowers on the dresser, a reassuring note.
A pink envelope next to it was labeled “Josephine Way.” I opened it to find a handwritten note from Darla Starling, the woman who had hired me by phone.
“Dear Josie,” it read in a girlish hand, each letter painstakingly formed. “Welcome to Wilfred. I hope you find your rooms comfortable—we changed the sheets, and there are fresh towels in the bathroom. We’ll see you downstairs at nine tomorrow morning. I look forward to meeting you in person. Sincerely, Darla.” A banner reading SWEET GEORGIA PEACHES ran across the stationery’s edge. I crossed the room to the window to draw the curtains and stopped short. Amber eyes stared back. It was a black cat, perched on the roof outside my window. I wasn’t being watched, I reminded myself. No one knew I was here. They couldn’t. It was just a cat.
Just as I was about to jerk the chintz drapes closed, the cat sat on his haunches and paddled his front paws comically on the windowpane before falling on his back in a move Buster Keaton would have envied. The cat opened one eye to make sure I was watching. I couldn’t help but laugh.
Feeling calmer, I turned to the task I’d been dreading. I’d seen a rotary phone on the kitchen wall. It had been years since I’d used one, but there was no question of using my cell phone. I’d left it at home so I couldn’t be traced. First I dialed 1-1-6-9 to block my number, then my sister Toni’s number, even though it was three in the morning back home. I let it ring twice and hung up. Our signal. Then I called again, again blocking my number.
Toni—Marie Antoinette was her full name; our historian father had named each of the three of us after French queens—answered with a hesitant “Yes?”
“It’s me, Josie.”
“What time is it? Is everything all right?” In those few words, her voice went from drowsy to alert. “How’s New York?”
“About that.” I screwed my eyes closed and opened them. Out with it. “I’m not in New York.”
She groaned. “Oh, Josie, you haven’t—”
“I won’t tell you where I am. But I wanted you to know I’m okay, just in case you called the hotel and found out I hadn’t checked in.”
“So. You ran.”
“I’ll come home after the trial. It’ll only be a few months. I already gave my deposition. They don’t need me now.” “I knew this would happen. Couldn’t the feds hide you somewhere? What about the witness protection program? I don’t feel good about this.”
“After what happened to Anton, I didn’t want to take the chance.” The week before, my coworker and fellow whistleblower Anton had vanished, leaving a wife and toddler daughter with no idea whether he was dead or alive.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes—that is, I’m not sure. I had this weird episode on the plane, like my innards were exploding. Is that what a panic attack feels like?” Toni was a physician. She’d know.
“Not usually. Stress does weird things, though.”
I’d had plenty of stress. I pulled aside my collar and pressed a finger on the star-shaped birthmark on my shoulder. Ever since I was a girl, I’d touched it for comfort. Tonight, it almost burned.
“I’m sure I’ll be better in the morning.” “You really won’t tell me where you are?”
“No. You know I can’t. But you should see it here. It’s crazy, like I stepped into Cold Comfort Farm. The guy who drove me from the airport could have been nicknamed Lurch. I’m waiting for a raven to appear on a tree branch outside.”
“Just give me your town’s name. What if something happens to you?”
“No. I can’t. It’s better this way.” I toyed with the phone’s coiled cord. “I’ll call Mom tomorrow,” I said, replying to Toni’s unspoken question. All our lives, my sisters and I had shared a tacit communication. We could work elbow-to-elbow in Mom’s kitchen and never get in each others’ way. We’d pass a half cup of milk or plug in the mixer or set the oven’s timer for another sister without saying a word. “It’s late. I need to get to bed. I just wanted you to know I’m all right.”
After hanging up, I laid my nightgown on the foot of the bed. On impulse, I heaved up the bedroom window. Oak trees vanished into the night. Beyond the trees was a cabin that couldn’t have been more than a few rooms. The caretaker’s, I guessed. Beyond that, maybe fifty yards away, was a house as large as the library, but squat and wide. I made out the glow of a light in an upstairs window. As I watched, a window shade pulled shut and blocked it out.
A breeze whooshed through the dry leaves, carrying a few to rattle against the roof. “Good night, wind,” I said, almost hearing my grandmother whisper the words in my ear. Funny, I hadn’t greeted the wind since I was a girl.
The black cat returned, too, padding up the shingles below my window.
“Who are you, little guy?”
He took two steps forward, mouthed a silent “meow,” and leapt away into the darkness.

My Review:

Bait and Witch
Witch Way Librarian Mysteries #1
Angela M. Sanders


Angela M. Sanders’ debut to her new cozy mystery series is just purrfect, complete with Josie our novice witch, a black cat and of course a fantastic rustic old library filled to the gills with dusty books that speak to said novice witch. With a fast-paced flowing narrative and an intriguing multi-threaded plot Angela weaves her tale about murder and mayhem interspersed with big city corruption and small town politics. Josie, the accidental witch is a charming multifaceted character whose love for books mixed with an innate curiosity makes her the perfect star for this series. There are also some really cool secondary characters including library trustees, Wilfred residents, Rodney the library cat that seems to have a very special relationship to Josie, plus Sam a member of the founding family that has a fondness for our witch. Is Rodney Josie’s familiar, will there be Cupid’s arrows for Sam and Josie? Fans will just have to wait and see. The mystery(s) are confounding and the ending will astound the audience. Fans of cozy mysteries with a bit of woo woo, magic realism and a really good twister will find this book hard to put down.

After eves-dropping on an incriminating conversation between a Senator’s aide and a lobbyist, Library of Congress employee Josie Way knows she must report the crime, then she’s forced to leave Washington and hide when her whistleblowing makes her a target. So she answers a Librarian wanted ad for Wilfred Oregon, a small town perfect to hide out until it’s safe to return to her old life in D.C. What she didn’t expect was that she would stumble upon a murder mystery while coming to love the old house turned library, the town, the drama and the library patrons too. Oh and a jaw dropping little secret that she’s a witch from an extremely long line of witches.


About the author:

I give the best part of my day—that calm few hours early in the morning when the birds are waking up and my subconscious is fresh from a night with the sandman—to writing fiction. Specifically, I write crime fiction geared to people who like down-to-earth glamour shaken with intelligence and wit.

The Joanna Hayworth Vintage Clothing series takes place in my hometown of Portland and features a curmudgeonly aesthete who reluctantly solves murder cases while luxuriating in 1930s dressing gowns and icy martinis.

The Booster Club capers center around a retirement home for petty criminals who want to do good, but can’t resist using their, um, “talents” along the way.

The three Kite Shop mysteries, written as Clover Tate, take place in on Oregon’s gorgeous coast and star Emmy Adler, a young, struggling kite shop owner with hippie parents (quinoa and a Watergate reenactment club factor heavily) and a knack for stumbling over dead bodies.

The upcoming Witch Way librarian mysteries also explore rural Oregon, but this time through the eyes of a transplanted East-Coaster who finds herself in the middle of nowhere, running a library in a multi-turreted house that would have made the Addams Family proud, in a town full of alarming eccentrics, and with the curious ability of being able to talk to books. The first in this series, Bait and Witch, debuts January 2021.