It was only a matter of time before I, voracious reader that I am, made the leap from terrible romance movies to terrible romance novels. I haven’t gone all in on the dating-a-bad-boy-billionaire genre though, never fear. So far I have only dipped my toe in the much more hilarious sounding “cozy paranormal mystery” genre. I forced two of my close friends to join me on this excursion into the unknown (by buying them the books for 99p each) and I think they will both regret being friends with me. It was a close tie between The Vampire Knitting Club by Nancy Warren and Witcher Upper by Amy Boyles but ultimately, how could we not pick a book with such an on-the-nose title?
Much as expected this book mostly produced the kind of merriment that is only brought about by the truly rubbish and we all had plentiful laughs. Onto the actual review:
The blurb of the book tells us that Lucy’s grandmother has been murdered, and is a vampire. All well and good except… it takes us until two fifths into the book for Lucy to learn this. I appreciate that a book needs a hook but giving the game away and the protagonist not knowing for so long kind of felt a bit rubbish.
The characterisation of, well, anyone was on the poor side. At one point Lucy says “trust me to find the only vampire knitting club in the world”. But prior to this we’ve never been given any reason that she has such extraordinarily bad (?) luck. Her boyfriend cheated and she hates her job so she left, spent a month working with her archaeologist parents before deciding to spend a couple of months in Oxford – my heart bleeds.
Lucy seems to only be able to notice people and describe them via skin tone “he had the kind of skin that would freckle”, “the tan showed that he spent his winters in spain”. How does it show that? Spain is not much sunnier than the UK in the winter, that means absolutely nothing. With regards to Lucy, everyone calls her beautiful but we never have a description as to why. Of course, everyone’s value of beautiful is different, but it does seem awfully handy to be able to say “oh she’s pretty, who knows why”.
Lucy doesn’t have much of a personality, she fancies most good looking men that are around her, and she’s “beautiful”, so far so “insert self here”. Until we come to something rather egregious. Lucy didn’t realise she was a witch because she’s “a late bloomer”. I will include the entire passage so I can point out its mistakes:
[from her grandmother]:
““You’re a late bloomer. Always have been.”
She was right. I was the last one in my class who could read. I couldn’t tell time until I was eight. I still had trouble with left and right, and when all the other girls in high school were shopping at Victoria’s Secret, I was still in a training bra.”
She has taken three things that are indicative of actual issues people face, usually people with dyslexia and/or dyspraxia, lumped them together with having small boobs and called it a reason to not realise an important part of your personhood. We actually later found out that her mother didn’t hold with witchcraft much and so probably suppressed it when she could. Which is a far better, less ableist, reason. I mean, it worked on Harry Potter.
Moving on from that hot mess, we have men who seem to be worldly by quoting well known plays or misrepresenting the stages of grief. But it’s OK because they’re “creepy” or “disturbingly attractive”, girl, get a new “type”.
Poor research on the part of the author led to this: “I don’t know if it was the jet lag or the grief”. Friends, it’s one hour time difference from Egypt to Britain, it wasn’t jet lag. And on the part of Lucy: “I don’t know anything about cats”. Google exists. These and at least half a dozen other items just feel like poor storytelling, not character traits.
I will confess to have gotten the murderer wrong so points for that, though the reasoning was the same. The murderer was, however, like many murderers doing it for stupid reasons that, when you get down to it, almost certainly wind them up in jail when they are inevitably caught which is the literal opposite of their plan.
Second to last observation, this was a clever sentence: “Sherlock Holmes had his Baker Street irregulars, and I had my Harrington Street immortals.” But it’s the kind of sentence that you feel had a book built around it because the author thought themselves clever. And it is pretty clever, but it deserved a better book than this.
My last observation comes in two parts. In the final few paragraphs, Lucy is sitting down with her family, witches and vampires and observes to herself: “It felt both cozy, mysterious, and mystical sitting in that circle”. One, that is a list of 3 things, put your ‘both’ away. Two, “cozy” “mysterious” – do you think I forgot which book section I got this from? If you have to tell people your book is cozy and mysterious you must be doubtful that you got the point across. While it was far from being a good book it did definitely hit both those points (I did guess the wrong murderer, after all), but if the author is unsure I don’t hold much hope for future stories…
If my friends remain my friends we might do this again, but if you never hear from me about these sorts of books again you will know what has happened!