Title: Strange Magic
Author: Syd Moore
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance, Mystery, Thriller
For this months review I will be taking a look at Strange Magic which is the first book in Syd Moore’s Essex Witch Mysteries series.
Our story starts in a hospital in Essex in the middle of a storm. A nurse is about to clock off for the day and her final task is to check in on a comatose boy named Max however events take a dark turn when he is possessed by a witches son and starts acting violently.
Meanwhile, Rosie Strange is a cynical, headstrong woman who doesn’t believe in ghosts, witches or magic. So when her grandfather Septimus leaves her his Essex Witch Museum, it is no surprise she intends to sell up, take the profits and run.
She turns up at the museum to see it in a dilapidated state and meets the curator, Sam Stone, who though Rosie is physically attracted to finds his behaviour repulsive. However when an eccentric academic named professor George Chin turns up with a request of Sam and Rosie, events take an unexpected turn.
It appears Max’s family reached out to him after the possession. Chin has identified the witch in question is Ursula Cadence, a witch who was burned to death in the sixteenth century. Meanwhile her son was left to fend for himself and has possessed Max as he wants to be reunited with his mother in death, although Max is getting weaker by the second.
So begins a race against time as Rosie and Sam seek to investigate the history of the bones before it is too late, but who is hot on their tail and wants to use the bones for their own ends?
I read this book for my book club and found it to be a very enjoyable read. Both Rosie and Sam are interesting characters and I enjoyed their overall dynamic throughout the novel, Rosie being at times quite cynical septic whereas Sam is more of the believer in the fantastical and is quite geeky.
The relationship they build which at times does fall into will-they, won’t-they trope is overall entertaining and full of comic moments which makes it interesting and different. For example, Sam being an irritating nervous passenger/backseat driver whenever Rosie and Sam go anywhere and Rosie’s irritation when other women appear to flirt with Sam.
To be honest I did find parts of Rosie’s character too cynical and at times I did struggle to like her, especially at the beginning of the novel. For instance, she says to Sam how she managed to catch out someone who was claiming benefits when they shouldn’t in her day job with some pride and also makes a comment about pensioners draining the state fund which was a bit too close to the bone (no pun intended). Also the selling the museum trope makes her seem quite callous and cold at times.
However, another major strength of this novel is the backstory. Syd Moore is from Essex and she spent a lot of time researching the Essex Witch Trials of the 16th and 17th centuries (people though mostly women who were put to death for being witches – indeed the Ursula Cadence of the novel is based on Ursula Kemp). Though the story is fictional, the mythology does feel lived in and it is clear Moore spent a lot of time researching the history and an afterword at the end explains the efforts that she went to and I would say this is a massive benefit to the story as it was a history I was only loosely aware of but I would like to find out more.
The book is also very exciting with some campy jumpy bits and an intriguing mystery which does keep you going to the end. One comment I will make on the Kindle version which I read is there were quite a few typos for those who are put off by grammatical errors.
Overall it was a good introduction to the story and I will be interested in reading the sequels to find out what happens next.