ARC Review: Accused: The Kansas City Warlock Weekly #1

Accused: The Kansas City Warlock Weekly #1 by M. N. Jolley

Levi Lawson stands accused. He’s already on probation for an earlier run-in with the magic authorities in Kansas City, and now he’s being blamed for a murder he didn’t commit. His friends among the magical authorities don’t want to help, citing “politics”. Something deep seem wrong within the KC magical community, and the only way for Levi to figure it out and prove he’s falsely accused is is for him to solve the murder himself. 

Accused is M. N. Jolley’s first entry in his planned five book series The Kansas City Warlock Weekly. It was the Bronze Medalist in last year’s Book Blogger’s Novel of the Year Awards competition, and it’s easy to see why. It’s a murder mystery wrapped up in a fantasy novel, that’s set in an alternative Kansas City filled with magic potions and crystals, witches, warlocks, trolls, vampires, and more. The story unfolds in flashback, as Levi relates it while being interrogated by two counsellors (magic community policemen). 

In this world, magic operates underground, outside the gaze of the everyday unmagical folk (the “straights” in the lingo of this world). Levi himself is not a member of the magical community - he’s not licensed to perform magic. But he uncovered the magic community as a young reporter and his editor agreed to publish a story on what he found. The story was magically quashed, and Levi found himself on probation after facing charges before the magical court. 

Levi’s newspaper career seemed over, but he’s struck out on his own, trying to survive by starting a weekly newspaper aimed at KC’s small magical community. It’s while he’s working to gather stories for one of his first editions that he suddenly finds himself drawn into a murder scene.

Luckily for Levi he’s not alone in facing his accusation. Ben, his matching-app date right before things went haywire, steps up and helps Levi out. But it will take everything they can think of to get to the bottom of this mystery.

I’m a sucker for a good mystery, so needless to say I enjoyed this book. Jolley did a good job building out the characters in the book, especially Levi. The setting of the story, in the “small community” of magic practitioners in Kansas City, shades the book toward the “cozy mystery” end of the mystery book spectrum. But the plotline includes enough chase scenes and magical elements to also put it squarely in an urban fantasy realm.

I also appreciated the gay and nonbinary representation, and loved how Jolley worked in that Levi is on the autism spectrum. These elements were a natural part of the overall story, and helped to flesh it out.

But there’s not a lot of time spent fleshing out the magical world. The action comes too thick and fast for that. I suspect that over the arc of the whole series the magic world building will become clearer, but in this book some things seemed to come a bit out of the blue. For example, there wasn’t any real backstory before the appearance of a vampire, making it seem more like a plot device than an outgrowth of the world Levi and Ben inhabit. 

Aside from small quibbles like that it’s a solid recommendation from me. A good story for fans of fantasy, who also love a good mystery. Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐. 

NOTE: I received this book to read and review as part of a 2021 BBNYA Winners tour organized by the TheWriteReads team. I am providing a fair and honest review.

BBNYA is a yearly competition where Book Bloggers from all over the world read and score books written by indie authors. If you’re an author and want to learn more about BBNYA,  visit the official website or check them out on Twitter @bbnya_official

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Title: Accused: The Kansas City Warlock Weekly #1
Author: M. N. Jolley
Publisher: M. N. Jolley (Self Published)
Publish Date: November 3, 2020
Amazon ASIN:  B08H4JWSXB
BN ID: 2940162389897
Publisher’s List Price: $3.99 (Kindle or Nook ebook as of 03/2022)
Note: An Audiobook version of this book is also available on Amazon & BN.