Every summer I look forward to spending a few days in San Francisco with Lily Ivory, her employees at her vintage clothing shop, her gluttonous familiar Oscar, her sexy boyfriend Sailor, and various other inhabitants of the Haight district where Lily works and lives. These are charming folks who, since they’re set in a paranormal cozy mystery series, tend to bumble into a crime scene every few weeks.
This time, Lily goes to visit a woman who owns a competing vintage clothing shop and who has filed suit against Lily for something Oscar did. Readers won’t be surprised that the woman dies soon after this confrontation and that Lily is, once again, being questioned by the San Francisco police. Being a bit nosey, and having a flexible working schedule, Lily (again) sets out to uncover the culprit and, in the process, explores more of San Francisco (she’s relatively new to the area), meets more of the city’s denizens, and hears some of its old legends. For example, she spends time at a popular dog park, makes friends with a lady who has a cupcake shop, learns a legend about a shoeshine boy’s curse, visits a fashion exhibit at a local museum, and spends the night in a famous haunted house. Along the way, readers will learn some fascinating historical facts about the poisons used in the textile industry.
Meanwhile, Lily’s position in the community is changing. As her business thrives, she becomes an asset to the city by providing jobs, righting wrongs, helping her neighbors, and contributing to the local economy and welfare in other ways. Her position in the magical community is also changing as Aidan Rhodes, its local leader, is starting to groom Lily to be his right-hand woman. Currently the magical community is stable and at peace, but foreshadowing in A Toxic Trousseau (and the previous book) indicates that a threat is on the horizon. Lastly, Lily’s love life is changing. There’s a major development in that regard in the last chapter of A Toxic Trousseau.
Except for the mostly subtle changes I mentioned in the last paragraph, A Toxic Trousseau doesn’t advance Lily’s overall story much. And, gosh, there are a lot of coincidences which make it feel contrived rather than realistic. But readers who love the series are unlikely to complain and, in fact, are probably happy to know there’s no “end” in sight. It’s pleasant to visit Lily’s Haight Street shop every summer and these stories always have an engaging voice and a light touch of humor that make them fun to read even when the overarching plot feels sluggish. Oscar is always amusing and Lily and her friends occasionally deal with some current issues that are interesting to think about in a paranormal context. For example, the coven that Lily’s coworker belongs to is dealing with a transgender issue.
A Toxic Trousseau is the eight book in Juliet Blackwell’s WITCHCRAFT MYSTERIES. Each book can stand alone, but it’s a better experience to read them in order because Lily’s personality and love life slowly evolve as the series goes on. I absolutely love the Tantor Audio recordings performed by the fabulously fantastic Xe Sands and, as I’ve probably said in my review of every book in the series, she adds significantly to the reading experience. I wouldn’t think of reading this series any other way.