Looking for a quirky paranormal cozy with a difference? Tired of the same ‘ol supernatural creatures? If so, THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST could be exactly what you’re looking for.

the accidental alchemist

Zoe Faust believes she’s found the perfect place to stop running, Portland, Oregon. The city speaks to her and she’s found the perfect fixer upper to meet both her needs and budget. Buying the local haunted house leads Zoe to all sorts of complications. For someone determined to stay under the radar it’s increasingly hard to do when Charles, the handyman she hired, is found dead on her front porch on her second day of residence.

Imagine a cozy paranormal with a quirky charm. No vamps, werewolves-shifters, witches, demons, or ghosts need apply. So what does that leave? THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST with its vegan former alchemist protagonist, Zoe Faust, and a recently discovered transformed gargoyle, Dorian Robert-Houdin. The first in a new mystery series has more going for it than against it.

The cast is diverse and should appeal to a wide range. The setting fits Zoe perfectly and she has my newest favorite partner in sleuthing, Dorian.

Here’s a quick run down of the characters I think will be reappearing in the future.

Veronica, Ethan, and Brixton are the youth factor.
Ethan’s the rich James Dean rebel with a good heart.
Veronica’s the gawky soon to be stunning girl who has no idea what’s ahead. She just likes hanging with her friends Ethan and Brixton.
Brixton is the only child of a teen mother. His upbringing has been eclectic and loose. The biggest stabilizing influence has been Blue, wildcrafter and owner of the local teashop.

Heather is Brixton’s artist mom. He has a step-dad now but he’s always gone so readers never meet him. Heather’s parenting style is lax at best.

Max Liu ~ Portland detective lives in the neighborhood and frequents Blue’s tea shop. Max learned about herbs from his grandmother, an apothecary in China. His deceased wife was a doctor. He’s an odd blend of lore and science making him the ideal possible love interest for Zoe. Don’t worry; this is by no means a romance. Only hints of attraction occasionally.

Blue ~ owner of Blue Sky Teas, the local teashop/watering hole. No pub, coffee-shop, or diner here, it’s all about au natural. Blue has been a mother figure to Brixton. Blue and Zoe are in sync with many of their beliefs and tastes. Blue, like Zoe, has something to hide.

Olivia and Sam are aunt and nephew. Sam teaches and returned to live with Olivia when she was seriously ill. He’s worked at Blue’s also to earn extra money for Olivia’s treatment. The kids consider him the cool teacher. Olivia can be offputting. She’s one of those people who can be taken the wrong way easily and she’s extremely fond of gossip.

Ivan is a former chemistry professor. A friend of Olivia’s he’s retired due to his health. Ivan’s trying to write a book before his illness catches up with him completely. His book is on the connection between alchemy and modern chemistry/science.

Zoe Faust ~ accidental alchemist and protagonist. Zoe accidentally discovered the Elixir of Life without being aware of it for several years. There were times I really liked Zoe and times I wondered if she’d truly been around as long as she claimed. Zoe’s a bit more passive than my tastes normally run but she grew on me.

Dorian Robert-Houdin ~ adorable Parisian gargoyle and gourmet chef. Dorian captured my heart the minute he appeared. Dorian knew of Zoe from her time in Paris and stowed away in a shipping crate to seek her help. Dorian was shocked to discover she was no longer in France. Poor Francophile gargoyle….

Besides appealing and interesting characters THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST has a solid mystery going for it. All the clues for solving the mystery are there before the reader.

Ms. Pandian’s mix of fictional and historical characters combined with some extrapolation of their deeds, gives a feeling of realism and authenticity to Zoe, alchemy, and Dorian. Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, Nicholas Flamel, and John Dee are a few of the fascinating historical figures Ms. Pandian introduces.

My only complaints are minor. Charles’s murder was often lost. Despite it being the catalyst for everything it becomes secondary to subsequent events. We only get a sense of Charles from other characters and he stays sketchy at best.

The emphasis on vegan is overdone with the whole purity thing becoming a bit preachy. After reading the bio at the end it’s understandable. However, I hope it’s strongly tempered in future books.

THE ACCIDENTAL ALCHEMIST is a delightful and welcome addition to the paranormal cozy ranks.

4 stars