One Potion in the Grave by Heather Blake
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Carly Bell Hartwell uses secret drops to create magical potions that actually work, so when she gets a visit from a famous bride-to-be wanting a love potion, she's curious. And when her childhood friend, Katie Sue Perrywinkle, now Kathryn Perry, stops by her shop to say hello after a ten year absence and sets off Carly's "witchy senses" with the aura of danger surrounding her, Carly grows concerned. Her worry leads her to warn Dylan Jackson, her former-fiance-almost-boyfriend who works for the sheriff's office, that something is amiss. Sadly, Carly's warning doesn't prevent catastrophe, and she must piece together what happened before anyone else dies.
I really enjoy Heather Blake's two mystery series. They are fun cozies with quirky characters and small town settings. Two things affected my rating with this one, though: 1) I figured out near the beginning that a key assumption Carly made about Katie Sue's relationship to the Calhoun family was wrong, whereas it took Carly 3/4 or so of the book to realize her mistake, which was annoying, and 2) I actually figured out who the killer was several chapters before the end of the book. (I prefer not to be certain about who & why.)
OK, and a third thing that didn't help my rating was that I really enjoyed getting to know the characters in the first book in this series, and I had been wanting to get to know them better in this one, which barely happened. There is a little progress made in some key relationships, which I appreciated, but I felt like Blake could have had much more space to flesh out her characters if only they hadn't wasted so much time chasing red herrings. Ah well, it was still fun and a great choice for relaxing on the couch, recuperating after the holiday whirlwind.
For readers' advisors: story doorway is primary. There is no sex or onscreen violence and only a few mild swear words.
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