Maddy is busy preparing for her grand opening of her bed and breakfast. She has a lot to do - and she does not need the spiteful machinations of Ralph Greyhoof - a local satyr and fellow hotelier - who is looking to sabotage the competition.
But no-one expected the rivalry to turn to actual murder - when a witch body turns up in Maddy’s back garden. Maddy doesn’t buy it, there is far more going on here than a business rivalry - and hotel guests are not worth killing over
This book is a lot of fun - the characters are fun, the world is fun, the story is fun. But it’s not just fun, it has a lot of decent depth to it, especially in the characterisation and it all has a lot of substance to it which makes it fun, but definitely not fluff
Most of the other characters are excellent - Maddy’s history, her past relationships, her moments of running wild, her charging around as a vampire hunter - all of that is very present with Maddy and with Sandy who both shared this history. Franny, the frustrated ghost who cannot interact with the world but oh so badly wants to. Having someone who genuinely dislikes Maddy and is definitely a rival but having the characters recognise that just being an enemy doesn’t make them completely evil. I like the levels there, the fact we don’t have enemy=completely irredeemably evil or that anyone who opposes the protagonist must be completely without any positive qualities. I like that
This applies to a fair amount of the plot - I like the whole complexity around the vampires, I like that the most obvious target gets questioned repeatedly. I like that we also have Linda, the head of their coven and mayor of the town who has also a lot of levels in her involvement of the plot which is hard to simply say good or bad. It’s not that everything is complex or elaborate - it isn’t convoluted at all. It’s not hard to follow, or difficult or following unnecessary twists for the sake of it. But more the characters simply are not simplistic, even enemies are multi-dimensional and as such so is the plot line, discerning actual motives and the investigation around that.
If I wanted more from the plot, it would be more of Maddy showing her Mad Maudlin days and not being a little damsel-ish around the edges. But at the same time I appreciate Maddy’s own history and her equal conflicted feelings about that.
I also feel that with all the wonderful nuance we see in the characters and plot, there are some elements of the politics of the world building that feel simplistic - like how easily Maddy and Sandy can set the agenda and successors for the Council and their coven.
I’m still not sold on Aegis. Maddy is fun and interesting and has layers. Maddy and Sandy have a fun relationship with clear and wonderful history between them. Even Maddy and Franny have an interesting growing relationship with nuance I respect and look forward to seeing develop. I think even Delia has a lot of potential and is interesting - even Greyhoof the semi-antagonist has some interesting elements of nuance and development.
But Aegis? He’s a vampire, he loves Maddy (and has done from the beginning of the book and almost instantly in the prequel but there’s no real indication of WHY he loves her or what connection he has with her beyond sex) and he’s a musician - but even then music doesn’t seem to be that major an element of his life. It’s just like “this guy needs a profession/purpose when Maddy isn’t there” and so, music. I think he wouldn’t stand out as being hollow if everyone else around Maddy weren’t so coloured in.
While we do have some strong female characters in Maddy’s life - in fact she’s rare among urban fantasy protagonists in that she is one of the very few who have far more women in the life than men. Unfortunately we do not have many other minorities. Linda is mentioned as having a Native American heritage - but it’s literally a mention and her own story means she’s unlikely to be a repeat character. An antagonist Rachel - a most definite enemy - is described as Romany - but it’s, again, a mention, and seems to be used equally with being a Strega (Italian witch tradition). Her estate agent is a gay man who I’m not sure even appears in the book to any real degree and he is solely described as “flamboyant, gay and fabulous”. That’s it, that’s all he is. That’s not a character, it’s a trope.
There’s a lot of excellent in this book, a whole lot of fun. There’s some sour notes - with the lack of minorities and Aegis just… doesn’t need to be there or needs to be more there. With the events of this book has also promised to already set us on a much more serious series than I originally pictured in the first short story - I’m definitely excited about following this. Fun, nuanced and fascinating - excellent potential.