The Alchemist’s Illusion

by Gigi Pandian
Midnight Ink, January 2019, $15.99

Since moving to Portland looking to reinvent herself again, Zoe Faust, in her fourth series escapade, has finally found real friends, true love, and it seems a home. But a normal life is almost impossible for the more-than-three-centuries-old, near-immortal plant alchemist whose best bud/sidekick, Dorian, is a 150-year-old-gargoyle chef who thinks of himself as a modern-day Poirot.

As she wonders if it’s time to come clean to her beau, Portland cop Max Liu, about who and what she really is, Zoe is faced with a double whammy. First, a cryptic message that her mentor Nicolas Flamel, the 14th-century alchemist and discoverer of the philosopher’s stone, is not dead, but is trapped and needs her help. Then, news that her dear friend, former slave and fellow near-immortal, Tobias, is coming to visit after the death of his wife.

Things get tricky when a murder seems somehow linked to finding Nicolas, and Zoe and her gang have to figure how to solve the puzzle without exposing their own secrets.

The Alchemist’s Illusion is a whimsical, addictive, and unusual cozy mystery with paranormal characters who share the pages with mere mortals. Author Gigi Pandian’s choice to stage it all in Portland, the eclectic capitol of the Pacific Northwest where these oddities can hide in plain sight, is brilliant. The story is contemporary but the mystery starts in the past and the author cleverly uses dual timelines to expertly connect the dots.

The star of the series, Zoe, is caught between two worlds and the author validates this not only with Zoe’s poignant memories but also with the occasional archaic term and antiquated medicinal tinctures she creates. Then there’s her sidekick, the Poirotesque gargoyle who is just the cutest character ever. There is a tender romance between Zoe and her cop boyfriend, and watching them overcome their huge obstacles just proves that love does conquer all. And to top it all off, there are fabulous recipes (care of Dorian) at the end of the book. This novel stands well on its own, but like all series is best read in order.

Debbie Haupt
Teri Duerr
January 2019
Midnight Ink