The Witch Tree (Anna Denning Mystery Book 1) Kindle Edition
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Her main characters are rich, with the protagonist having a deep wound leaving her uncertain about life, the antagonist having been abandon in her teens and initially needing to grasp for power as a protection. That this has led to selling out for more power is very believable. A couple of young people, struggling in life and looking for answers have been swept into new age claims of self-empowerment, but come to find a cost associated with that.
The plot has twists and turns enough to suit a mountain road. I found myself wanting to keep reading when it was time to go to bed. Chapters break with some issue left hanging - again, the sign of a craftsman. One point of note. This is a Christian Cozy mystery. While it is not a hard core screed, hammering at evangelism, the protagonist is a woman with a real faith that impacts her thinking and decisions. Allow for that and this is an excellent read and well worth the price.
The characters in The Witch Tree are completely believable, as is the entire storyline. It certainly doesn't read like a debut novel. You see beauty from ashes throughout this book, hence the title of this review. I've never written a review like this one, but I've never read a book like this one either.
You'll be totally glad you spent $3.99 for the Kindle edition of this one!
[Anna Denning Mystery #1]
A really engrossing mystery which kept me captivated throughout, THE WITCH TREE is not a paranormal, but a clean Christian mystery with a lot of emphasis on where one's faith is placed. The protagonist is a very empathetic widowed genealogist in small town Colorado. This novel commences the Anna Denning Mystery series, and I can't wait to continue.
That was full-disclosure item #1. Full-disclosure item #2 is that I may have trouble reviewing the book accurately because not only do I know the author (that's hurdle 1) there were also several instances of animals in jeopardy. That's hurdle #2 and, quite frankly, that's a big hurdle for me. There are a lot of books I've outright abandoned because of the animal-in-jeopardy thing (J.T. Ellison's debut involved killing a puppy in the first few pages. There was a Susannah Kearsey book chockablock with cruelty to horses that also got jettisoned pretty quickly.) So, getting that information out of the way, what did I think?
I'm a long-time fan of mystery stories but also a long-time disgruntled Christian who doesn't care for much of the work targeted to my religious demographic. As petty as it sounds I was actually thrilled to find a mystery story with some meat on the bones where the characters had a life more like mine. Yes, they went to church, but they also drank wine knowledgably, used psuedo-slang when startled or frustrated. Actually, I drink less and talk more but that's beside the point. These were REAL people in a book meant for Christians, as opposed to the usual Goofus and Gallant nonsense we usually have to choke down. That was a very pleasant surprise for me.
The mystery elements did sort of frustrate me at times to be honest, though. The book literally opens with the Discovery Of The Body, and we plunge headlong into all the intrigue surrounding the suspicious death. I tend to prefer mysteries where we get an introduction to the players in the opening chapter so that when they're confronted with The Main Event I actually feel invested in what's going on. Because of the cold open I had a bit of a time getting to where I cared about Anna beyond "okay, I guess this is the protagonist." As a protagonist, Anna also frustrated me at times. There were a couple of instances where I felt she was stirring the pot senselessly and that the escalation of the conflict and harm to those she cared about was HER fault because of her stupidity and I had a hard time not smacking her across the face.
When you think about it, that's a real testament to Kaufman's skill as an author. Here's this character doing really annoying things(*spoiler at the bottom of the review*) but _I was annoyed_. The character and the setting were real enough for me to be invested enough to be annoyed. A bad writer wouldn't be able to make me care. A bad writer would get a two-star review.
So ultimately I would suggest you check out this book if you are interested in mysteries, interested in the maturation process of fiction targeted to the Christian culture and can get past the whole animals-in-jeopardy thing.
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW....DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT CARE TO HAVE SECTIONS OF THE STORY DISCUSSED PRIOR TO EXPERIENCING THEM FOR YOURSELF. IF YOU DO READ ANYWAY I CAN'T BE HELD RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY DISAPPOINTMENT OR HARDSHIP YOU SUFFER IN RELATION TO THE REVELATIONS HEREIN.
There were a couple of scenes that seemed designed as a bit of a straw-man takedown thing, and those were where I wanted to slap Anna. The worst was on Christmas Eve. When Anna skipped out on the Christmas parties of her friends to go crash the witches' Anti-Christmas potluck I was already nervous for the poor dog and this just left me terrified from that point on that she was going to get her dog killed. So I had a really difficult time with Anna up until the conclusion.