The Accidental Alchemist has a French gargoyle who is a master chef in it. It also has an alchemist who is over three hundred years old, recipes, and a murder mystery. In other words, The Accidental Alchemist is a wonderful combination of ingredients that makes for a most satisfying read.
Zoe Faust has decided to settle down peacefully in Portland, run an online business selling antiques, and maybe start practicing alchemy again. Then a gargoyle stows away in her packing boxes and asks for her help, a teenager breaks into her house in search of the ghosts that are supposed to haunt it, and the man she hired to fix up her house shows up dead on her doorstep,. Her attempt at leading a peaceful, normal life is over before it began.
Mysteries are at their best when they have a good sense of place, and Pandian does an excellent job of creating the eccentric corner of Portland where Zoe Faust has settled. She peoples it with memorable characters who matter to the town life and to the mystery. Pandian plays fair both with the fantastic and the mystery elements of The Accidental Alchemist. The alchemy is well-described and made a part of our world as is the gargoyle. The mystery suspects are presented, and it is possible for a reader to follow Zoe’s reasoning when she uncovers the motive and the murderer.
The beginning romance in The Accidental Alchemist relied a little too much on the “irresistible attraction” brand, where the two characters are drawn to one another without reason and remain that way. To Pandian’s credit, however, Max Liu is written as a good and decent person as well as attractive. Also, the book is the first in a series, so the two have plenty of time to develop their relationship further.
I tried the smoothie recipe included at the back, and it was as delicious as promised. The Cherry Walnut Oatmeal Cookies and the Roasted Butternut Squash with Lemon Tahini Sauce are on my to-make list, but require a trip to the store first.
The Accidental Alchemist was a thoroughly enjoyable book. I recommend it for those who love mystery, fantasy, cooking, or any combination thereof.
Expected publication: January 8th 2015
Publisher: Midnight Ink
ISBN 0738741841 (ISBN13: 9780738741840)