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Charmed to Death: An Ophelia & Abby Mystery    by Shirley Damsgaard order for
Charmed to Death
by Shirley Damsgaard
Order:  USA  Can
Avon, 2006 (2006)

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* * *   Reviewed by Martina Bexte

When we first met Ophelia Jensen in Shirley Damsgaard's debut paranormal mystery, Witch Way to Murder, the reserved librarian was content to spend her days minding Summerset's library and her nights at home with her pets, while learning more about her psychic and precognitive gifts from her wise woman grandmother Abby. Not that Ophelia embraced the idea of getting in touch with her inner witch: her powers hadn't done much to save her best friend, Brian, five years before.

Ophelia's developing powers do eventually help her thwart a trio of local drug dealers, and she happily puts the incident behind her, certain there won't be more dead bodies turning up around Summerset any time soon. But a mere six months later, that's exactly what happens in Charmed to Death when a mega hog farming operation wants to set up shop close to her grandmother's property. Most of Summerset's residents are outraged about the proposal and Abby orchestrates a series of protests. But before the first placard is raised, Ophelia once again stumbles across a burned body lying half buried in a drainage ditch. Her senses immediately reveal that this John Doe died in the same horrible way as Brian did, and that the killer is in Summerset to put a stop to Ophelia's interference.

When Abby is attacked and ends up in a coma, Ophelia is determined to unmask the killer, even after her arch-nemesis - state investigator Henry (Iceman) Comacho - comes nosing around to investigate common links to another murder investigation. He'd like nothing better than to slap his cuffs around Ophelia's wrists and charge her for Brian's murder - and maybe the murder of John Doe as well. He labeled Ophelia as weird five years ago and hasn't changed his mind. But despite Comacho's icy scrutiny, Ophelia forges ahead. Could the killer be a neighbour who's held a long-seated grudge against her family? The slimy reporter who'd do anything for a scoop? Or the amiable stranger who has a way with words and his mind set on sweeping Ophelia off her feet?

Be prepared to fly through this charming and well-written story in a single sitting. Shirley Damsgaard has created an engaging protagonist in Ophelia, who's already shown considerable character growth since confronting the demons from her past and making the decision to embrace her magical gifts. Damsgaard also sets up an interesting and entertaining dynamic between Ophelia and Henry Comacho and leaves things wide open for more encounters. Make sure Charmed to Death comes home in your book bag - this new series shows marvelous potential.

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