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STEEPED TO DEATH
by Gretchen Rue
Crooked Lane, September 2022
304 pages
$28.99
ISBN: 1639101640


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

This spellbinding debut by Gretchen Rue introduces Phoebe Winchester as she discovers her powers as a witch.

Phoebe's Aunt Eudora dies and leaves Phoebe her home, a 10-bedroom mansion known as Lane End House, and The Earl's Study, a bookshop and tearoom. Just as Phoebe gets to town, Dierdre Miller approaches her, insisting Phoebe must sell Aunt Eudora's house to her. Settling in, Phoebe meets Bob, a large orange tabby, obviously, her aunt's cat, who welcomes her with a "Mrow" and a few chirps. In the basement, Phoebe discovers shelves filled with meticulously labeled jars of dried herbs and tins of teas from around the world. Phoebe begins to wonder about the rumors her aunt was a witch.

The next day, after checking out The Earl's Study and seeing the stack of mail to deal with, Phoebe visits The Sugarplum Fairy to get a latte and reinstate the daily order for pastries to offer in the tearoom. On her way back to the bookshop, she finds Dierdre waiting at the front door with a large man standing next to her. Fending off Dierdre's second request to buy her aunt's house, Phoebe locks the door once inside the bookstore. Phoebe's next surprise is meeting the tenant of the apartment over the bookshop Rich Lofting, a friend from the summers she spent visiting her aunt as a teenager. As Rich explains, Aunt Eudora let him move in when he started his divorce.

That evening police call Phoebe to come down to The Earl's Study they have found a dead body by the dumpster in the alley behind the shop. The dead man is identified as Carl Bullock, the man Phoebe had seen earlier with Dierdre. Phoebe picks up more hints regarding her aunt. Then when she is at lunch with Rich, she knocks her glass of water off the table, and when she reaches to catch it, she stops time as she safely retrieves the glass. Puzzling over her experience, on her way home she stops by the New Moon, a shop filled with crystals of all sizes and shapes. A young woman welcomes her and asks if she is Eudora's niece. Then she startles Phoebe with the question: "So, have you accidentally discovered your magic powers yet?"

It is no secret in Raven Creek that Aunt Eudora is a witch. But there is another secret that links Aunt Eudora to the murdered man, and Phoebe begins her search for the killer as she stumbles across that fact.

Gretchen Rue writes an intriguing paranormal cozy that effectively combines mystery with magic. The author delivers fascinating twists and well-developed characters at a comfortable pace. STEEPED TO DEATH is a strong beginning to this new series.

Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton's, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, August 2022

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