‘The Accidental Alchemist’ by Gigi Pandian – a delightful surprise

I’m happy to say that, with ‘The Accidental Alchemist’ I’ve found a new, light-but-not-fluffy Urban Fantasy series to read.

Gigi Pandian has managed to produce a book that is original, engaging, has a good enough plot to keep me turning the pages, characters well-drawn enough for me to care about, avoids gore and insta-love/rote-romance and still manages to keep a feel-good tone. That’s quite an achievement.

Zoe Faust, the Accidental Alchemist of the title, was a breath of fresh air. In her fourth century of life, after decades of travelling America in a trailer, she is moving to a falling-down house in a rural neighbourhood of Portland Oregon so that she can live a quiet, unnoticed life amongst people who will not regard her dabbling in herbalism and alchemical antiques as overly eccentric.

She’s frustrated in this by two discoveries: a murdered man on her porch and, in one of the packing cases that she has had shipped from storage in Paris, a brought-to-life centuries-old French stone gargoyle who is an excellent chef, even when forced to cook vegan food, and has a passion for Golden Age detective fiction.

What follows is a prayer to vegan food, an explanation of alchemy, and solving a mystery that involves local kids, Portland’s Shanghai Tunnels, a local detective who thinks he’s seeing monsters and a rich pool of interesting suspects.

It was a lot of fun, never degenerated into a Scooby-Doo episode and left me keen to read the rest of the series.

I recommend the audiobook version, narrated by Julia Motyka. Click on the SoundCloud link below to hear a sample.

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