When Eudora Pembroke, a self-styled witch, is found dead in her house after ingesting a poisonous plant, everybody suspects a tragic accident. After all, Eudora was elderly and might have mistaken the poisonous plant for a benign herb.
But Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd is sceptical. Would a skilled herbalist like Eudora Pembroke really make such a beginner’s mistake? And who might have had a motive to poison her?
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Some background information:
- Kitchen Witch is a novelette of 12500 words or approximately 45 print pages. This story is a digital premiere and has never been published previously.
- Kitchen Witch also marks the tenth appearance of Detective Inspector Helen Shepherd, her assistant Detective Constable Kevin Walker and forensic medical examiner Dr. Rajiv. Police Constable Martin Jackson and Charlotte Wong, scene of the crime officer and DC Walker’s girlfriend, reappear as well.
- Kitchen Witch was inspired by reading an article warning about the danger of confusing the edible herb wild garlic and the poisonous plant autumn crocus. Like any good mystery writer, I asked myself “What if someone deliberately exchanged the harmless for the poisonous herb and then tried to pass it off as a tragic accident?”
- While wondering just who might fall prey to such a scheme, I came up with Eudora Pennington, herbalist and practicing witch, as well as her greedy nephew.
- I am quite fond of wild garlic myself, though I buy it at the supermarket and don’t gather my own. And while Eudora has wild garlic as a tincture and as salad, I prefer lightly sauteeing it with olive oil, garlic and red pepper flakes and serving it with pasta.
- I decided to set the story in Hampstead, because the neighbourhood not just has the sort of lovely (and expensive) homes that one might be tempted to kill for, but also the sort of eccentric and artistic atmosphere that would allow characters like Eudora Pembroke or Tara Willows to exist there.
- The New Moon Esoteric Shop is fictional, but based on various existing esoteric and new age shops in London, mostly in the St. Giles, Covent Garden and Bloomsbury areas. None of them are in Hampstead though, probably because the rent is too high.
- The character of Tara Willows was something of a surprise to me, because she came alive in my mind almost at once. In fact, I’m planning a spin-off series of cozier mysteries featuring Tara using her brains, her charm and her knowledge of herbs and magic to solve crimes. Look for Lovestruck, first of the Tara Willows Mysteries, soon.
- Ashford, where Nicholas York lives, is not quite the end of the world, but about as far away from central London as you can get, while still remaining within the London commuter belt. It also is almost next door to Folkstone and the Eurotunnel.
- The cover is a stock photo by Amanda Dodds.