BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Series Review: A Wiccan Wheel Mystery


Series: A Wiccan Wheel Mystery

Titles: Midsummer Night's Mischief; Bell, Book, and Candlemas; Yuletide Homicide; Samhain Secrets; May Day Murder

Publisher: Kensington

Author: Jennifer David Hesse

Prices: 99 cents to $5.99 (ebook) / $7.99 (print)

Keli Milanni is an attorney in small town Edindale, Illinois. She is also a witch, a devoted Wiccan who is firmly in the closet to family and friends alike. The only people who know her secret are Mila and Catrina, who run the local metaphysical shop. All of that changes, though, when she stumbles across a dead body .... Drawing on her Wiccan faith, and the help of a few close friends, Keli sets out to expose a killer -- unless the killer gets to her, first ....

I am always on the lookout for new paranormal mysteries to read. As such, I was very excited when I first stumbled across Midsummer Night's Mischief. I enjoyed it so much that I have since read every book in the series as they were released. The fifth volume, May Day Murder, was just published in March of 2019, with Autumn Alibi set to come out this Fall.

As is apparent from the series title, each book is set around the time of one of the Wiccan holidays; additionally, the mystery that needs to be solved often relates to the holiday, as well. Samhain Secrets, for example, centers around family and ancestors.

Keli is a terrific character. She is smart, ethical, and compassionate. She is also deeply devoted to her Wiccan faith, which is presented respectfully. Keli regularly prays and casts spells at her altar and calls on the Goddess when she finds herself in a dangerous situation. In one scene, for example, she is trapped underground in the dark and is on the verge of having a panic attack; so she sits down and chants a calming prayer to the Mother Goddess and the Father God. On another occasion, she needs to set up a protective ward around a house which will keep out bad spirits, but not drive away the ghost who is trying to reach out to her; so Keli calls on Tara in both Her green and white aspects.

Author Jennifer David Hesse has definitely done her homework; there is not a single literary raised eyebrow or sidelong "look at these silly Wiccans" comments. Instead, the deep mysteries and beauty of Wicca are explored: how they tie to nature, how they help Keli to live an ethical life in the world, and how they provide comfort and strength in times of danger and stress.

Not surprisingly, the books also deal with issues which are important to many Wiccans. For example, protection of the environment, personal autonomy and responsibility, and religious freedom. It also raises important questions, such as: how far would we go to support a cause we believed in? How much responsibility do we have towards and for one another? What if the law does not match my personal ethics? 

Even better: the books can be classified as cozy mysteries. No swearing, no sex, no graphic violence (all the murders happen off-screen, as it were). These are just the sort of books that adults can enjoy, and then pass down to a teen or tween to also read -- and, maybe, inspire some important discussions.

The Wiccan Wheel Mystery series is not filled with flashy magic, witches flying through the air, or malevolent spirits intent on conquering the world. It is quiet, steady, grounded. The magic, for the most part, is subtle; even practical: Keli praying in front of her altar, or rescuing a cat who needs a home, or grabbing whatever is handy so that she can cast a quick spell at the office. She is a real witch, living her life day in and day out -- and solving a few murders along the way.

Highly recommended to fans of Juliet Blackwell's Witchcraft Mystery series, Bailey Cattrell's Enchanted Garden mysteries, Ellery Adams' Pies and Prejudice, and Gretchen Galway's Dead Witch on a Bridge.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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