The Accidental Alchemist by Gigi Pandian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received this book from the publisher while attending a conference. I’m so glad I did. It’s not a typical cozy mystery, though there is a murder and it is a who done it, of sorts. Zoe Faust is not your typical 20 something. She is in fact, hundreds of years old and carries her own baggage. She is resilient though and has found Portland, OR to be a place where she can settle for a while, rather than traveling constantly and living in her trailer. She is also an alchemist. She has bought a house, a fixer upper, which has a space for her to set up a lab once again, and hired a contractor to do the renovations. Unfortunately, he is killed on her front porch the day he is supposed to start.
Zoe can sense things, like poison, but she can’t really tell the police this. Adding a little more stress to the situation, when she goes to unpack her boxes she finds someone in the boxes. Well, something. A gargoyle. Named Dorian. Who needs help because he is dying. He knows Zoe from back in the day when she lived in France. In fact, unknown to Zoe, he helped her out of a tricky situation. He has a book that he thinks Zoe can use to help him. Only when the contractor is murdered, many of her books, including Dorian’s are stolen. Thus her interest in finding out who did it -- she wants/needs to get her books back. Throw a kid, Brixton, into the mix and others from the local tea shop (including main suspect Blue Sky, who has her own past), a cop, Max (who’s a little mysterious himself) and there is a lot going on.
The author blends it all well. I loved Dorian. Zoe and Dorian need each other. They are both unique in this world and it never hurts to have someone who shares, on some level, your experiences. Both are long lived and have seen many changes.
There were many other things I liked about this book. I liked that Zoe was almost accidental in her search for the killer - her intentions were to get her books back and to help Blue. Max seemed to push and pull a lot, so I couldn’t really get a feel for him, but it gets explained in the end. I liked the alchemy aspect of the book, but was a little lost at times as I’m not up on my alchemy. Zoe seems to strike a good balance between being on her own and reaching out to people and forming relationships.
The mystery resolved quickly at the end and I did not figure out who it was, though hints and clues were dropped along the way.
I recommend this to anyone who enjoys a good mystery with a different element, i.e. living gargoyle. I’m looking forward to reading the next book.
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