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Death by a Thousand Sips

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Member Reviews

(3.5 stars)

If you like a bit of the paranormal mixed in with a cozy mystery, you’ll enjoy Death By A Thousand Sips, book two in the Witches’ Brew mystery series. Phoebe, recently divorced, inherited her beloved Aunt Eudora’s Victorian mansion and business in a small town in Washington State and moved there. So now she is the owner of a combined bookstore and tea room. Eudora was known for her custom tea blends, and was rumored to be a witch; luckily she left the recipes/instructions for those tea blends for Phoebe! It turns out that Phoebe does have some of her aunt’s uncanny abilities; Phoebe has the ability to momentarily stop time, but she hasn’t figured out how to control it yet. In this story, it came in handy during a car crash but Phoebe couldn’t call up the ability at another point in the story where it also would have come in handy.

The mystery this time concerns a murder at an estate sale that Phoebe was attending in the hope of buying a lot of books for her store.

Her cat, Bob, is a major player in this story. He has a talent for getting into a bit of trouble, but he is a super-sweet kitty.

I’m a tea lover, so the special blends had me salivating, along with the descriptions of Phoebe making her treats for the store. There are some yummy-sounding recipes included at the end of the book, including how to make your own sour dough starter.

It’s been a while since I’ve read book one, so I can confidently say that this would work fine as a standalone.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read a review copy of this book. All opinions are my own.

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I enjoyed Death by a Thousand Sips by Gretchen Rue. It was okay to not have read the first book in the series.

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Thank you to Netgally, the publishers, and Gretchen Rue

When I requested this book I was unaware that it was apart of a series, one that requires you to read the previous books for this one to make sense. I am unable to read all the previous books along with this one before the publish date. Therefore, I will rate this a fair 3/5 stars and will adjust the rating and review when I am able to read all the books in the series along with this one.

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Magic themed books are generally not at the top of my reading list except for a few series. I had not read the first book in the series, but I had no trouble following this one. Phoebe is a likable main character although Bob absolutely steals the show. The mystery and supporting characters are strong. Great characters and a good mystery are things I look for in a cozy series. I will be reading more by this author!

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I really enjoyed Death By a Thousand Sips. Phoebe is such an interesting character and it's fun to see her evolving with her magic, even in just the second book in the series. The murder mystery was interesting and kept me stumped until the big reveal. I'm looking forward to the next book in this series to see what happens next.

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News of an estate sale sent Phoebe Winchester to a nearby town, hoping for a chance to bid for the huge collection of books, which would stock her bookstore and tea shop, The Earl's Study, for sometime to come. Leaving her two helpers to run the shop, as well as leaving her cat Bob behind in the shop, was the plan. But Bob had somehow snuck into the car - his presence was not unwelcome, but could be awkward. The estate agent showed her the book collection and Phoebe hoped the bidding wouldn't go too high. After she secured the collection as the highest bidder, her delight turned to horror when she discovered a dead body upstairs in the library.

Being a suspect meant Phoebe was determined to prove her innocence, as well as discover the killer. With her good friend and private investigator, Rich Lofting, helping out - reluctantly it must be said - Phoebe quite obviously came close to the solution, as she was threatened. Would she discover who the killer was, or would it be her last effort at being an amateur sleuth?

Death by a Thousand Sips is quite entertaining. Bob is adorable - his picture is on the book's cover - and his constant presence in Phoebe's life is cute. There wasn't a lot of "witchy stuff" in this book but what there was was fun! I'm looking forward to reading the next book in this series.

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"Death by a Thousand Sips" by Gretchen Rue is a delightful addition to the Witches' Brew mystery series, offering readers a perfect blend of magic, mystery, and a touch of romance. In this second installment, Phoebe Winchester returns to Raven Creek, and Rue weaves a tale that keeps the reader eagerly turning the pages.

Phoebe's character is charming and relatable, and her journey of adjusting to life in Raven Creek is both heartwarming and entertaining. The Victorian manor, the bookstore, and tea shop, The Earl's Study, all contribute to the cozy and magical atmosphere that Rue skillfully creates. The integration of Phoebe's recently discovered magical powers adds an intriguing element to the story, making it stand out in the genre.

The discovery of a dead body at an estate sale sets the stage for a compelling mystery. Rue masterfully crafts a plot filled with twists and turns, keeping readers guessing about the true identity of the killer. Phoebe's determination to clear her name and the involvement of Rich Lofting, the handsome private detective and childhood friend, add depth to the investigation and contribute to the overall appeal of the story.

The unresolved feelings between Phoebe and Rich add a layer of romantic tension, offering a nice balance to the mystery plot. Rue handles this aspect of the narrative with finesse, enhancing the character dynamics without overshadowing the central mystery.

The small, tight-knit town of Raven Creek serves as a charming backdrop, and Rue effectively explores the shadows lurking within, raising questions about the town's secrets. The infusion of magic, Phoebe's sleuthing skills, and the support of friends create a well-rounded narrative that keeps the reader engaged.

"Death by a Thousand Sips" is a four-star read that successfully combines the elements of a cozy mystery with magical undertones. Gretchen Rue has crafted a captivating story that will resonate with fans of Laura Childs and Cleo Coyle. With its well-developed characters, engaging plot, and the perfect blend of magic and mystery, this book is a delightful escape into the enchanting world of Raven Creek.

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Death by a Thousand Sips is a witchy cozy with books, cats and food, including recipes. Phoebe is a likable character who takes over the town's book and tea shop following her aunt's death. The story includes lots of cozy vibes and a touch of romance. Well this one was slower to me than the first book, I look forward to the next installment in this series. Thank you to the publisher for my e-copy of this book.

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I liked this book. The mystery kept me guessing. I liked the characters and the setting

Thank you to the author, publisher and NetGalley for my eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This is the second in the Witches Brew Mysteries series, and did you notice that the first book is oh so cutely displayed on this cover. Phoebe Winchester is both a tea shop owner/book store owner by trade and a witch with probability powers and slow motion time abilities (in a pinch). She also seems to be developing a knack at solving mysteries. What should have been an average estate sale Weatherly mansion, with a decent haul of mass media paperbacks turns out to be an unfortunate incident of murder. The suspects include Riley the disowned by association family member whose grandfather had never met him. Riley felt that the victim got what she deserved. Was it Franny, the quiet assistant who took a verbal lashing from Madelaine right before Madelaine turns up dead? Or maybe it was the oh-so attractive personal secretary to Mr. Weatherly who given…pretty much everything. Since Phoebe was the person to find Madelaine dead, she figures she is on the suspect list as well and needs to do what she can to get off of it by finding the killer. Thank goodness Phoebe has friends such as her mentor, Honey who helps with her memory by way of a little magic in a bottle for under the pillow. Rich, the handsome PI is also ready to lend a hand both professionally and personally. This was a great cozy with engaging characters and a clever plot that kept me turning pages while taking notes and trying to avoid red herrings. I was also impressed by the recipes in the back and cannot wait to try my hand at making the sourdough starter. I will be on the lookout for the next book in the series to add to my TBR list.

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I LOVED book one of this series when I read it earlier this year, and I knew I had to read book two. It did not disappoint. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite cozy mystery series. What's not to love - a witch new to her powers, a charming tea shop, a chubby cat, and murder? It's got everything a girl could want. 😉

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This is the 2nd installment in the Witches Brew mystery series. Phoebe Winchester runs the Earl’s Study (A tea and book shop) in Raven Creek which she inherited from her Aunt Eudora. When her employees Daphne and Imogen find a newspaper clipping for an estate sale at Weatherly Manor and they are interested in the library for adding stock to the book shop. The next day Phoebe leaves the store and is shocked to find Bob her cat in the car with her as she is on her way to the estate sale. Too late to turn back she takes Bob with her and keeps him in the car. When she arrives she meets Madeline Morrow who is running the estate sale and learns about the library inventory and later overhears Madeline in an argument on her phone. Phoebe successfully wins the books she is interested in and as she is looking around she is shocked to see Bob in the manor. She goes searching for him and finds him in the library that Madeline had showed her earlier and when Bob has blood on his paws she finds Madeline’s dead body. Now she is involved in another murder investigation. She asks her friend Rich who is a private investigator to help with some information on the other attendees at the auction. When an attempt is made on her life she knows she is on the right track. This was a really good mystery and it was nice to see Phoebe grow in her friendships in town. Looking forward to the next installment.

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There are a few cozy mysteries with cats on their cover, and I may have been mixing them up in my head when I request them. When I started reading this, however, I could firmly place it with the first book in the series that I have already read.
In the first, our lead protagonist comes to terms with her inheritance. This inheritance has both a physical and metaphysical connotation. Both of which she uses to solve a murder in the town. This time, the plot begins with Phoebe getting a push to try and get more books for the books part of her store. She ends up in an auction, which seems to have a lot of bad blood within the system. Her escaping cat leads her to the body, and the police quickly make their presence felt.
Although she does not have much of a connection with the victim, Phoebe is compelled to look for the actual killer with just an inkling that the police suspect her for being in the place at the wrong time. This was a little hard for me to digest. The investigation itself is straightforward and makes sense, but I wish the reason for the process was not so lukewarm.
There is also the romantic angle, with two men showing signs of being interested in being the leading man of the narrative, but only one can win. This and the magical part of the thought process definitely takes its own space in the narrative.
I would recommend this series to fans of the genre, especially those who like a bit of magic being treated as if it is part of regular life as a major boost to a murder investigation.
I received an ARC thanks to NetGalley and the publishers, but the review is entirely based on my own reading experience.

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I was so excited to read Death by Thousand Sips, the second book in the Witches Brew series. It did not disappoint! It was as good as the first book. I love all the mystical aspects of the story and learning about teas.

The connection Phoebe still has to her aunt even though she passed away is wonderful. It was such a sweet touch to the story to add things Phoebe found of her aunt's hidden thought out the house that made her feel like her aunt was still watching over her.

I also loved how the romance is building between Rich and Phoebe. Also, all the town interactions remind more of Stars Hallow in Gilmore Girls. The mystery was a lot of fun too and wasn't predictable, which I liked a lot. I highly recommend this series and look forward to the third installment!

Thank you, Netgallery and Crooked Lane Books, for the ARC!

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This was a very interesting read. While it is the second book in the series, you don't need to have read the previous book to easily follow along. The depiction of a small community is accurate. The murder mystery realistically, takes a back seat to day to day life. The cat is a normal cat, but I am left wondering if there may actually be more to him than anyone alive knows. Few people are what they seems to be. A very enjoyable read.

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I love a good tea/book shop! Phoebe Winchester has taken over the shop from her late aunt. Finding another body at an estate sale makes Phoebe have to get involved. This is a fun series with a touch of magic.

#DeathbyaThousandSips #NetGalley

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Death by a Thousand Sips
By Gretchen Rue
Crooked Lane Books
September 2023

Review by Cynthia Chow

It’s only been seven months since Phoebe Winchester moved in to take over her late aunt’s tea shop bookstore in Raven Creek, Washington, but so much about her life has changed. Not only has she discovered that she has inherited ownership of nearly half of the businesses on Main Street, she also learned that she is a witch with a special talent for probability. The former being more of a secret than the latter is probably the oddest thing about the state of affairs, but at least it means that Phoebe has other witches available to mentor her with spellcrafting. Her biggest priority at the moment though is building up stock for the Earl’s Study bookstore collection, which is why Phoebe attends a huge estate sale being held at the Weatherly mansion in the hopes of bidding on its large library collection. What Phoebe didn’t plan on was the ride along by her adopted cat Bob, nor that he and his paw prints would make their bloody way through the discovery of a body.

Madeline Morrow had been in charge of organizing the estate auction, and even before finding her body Phoebe had witnessed Madeline’s dismissive treatment of an assistant and the making of an angry phone call. So despite not being treated by the investigating detectives as a suspect for Madeline’s murder, Phoebe decides to take it upon herself to start making a list of possible killers with motives for the murder. She even recruits her childhood friend and current tenant Rich Lofting in her investigations, although his being a private investigator does make his involvement more predictable. What they discover is a Succession-level of family rivalry within the Weatherlys, as despite there supposedly being family descendants it turns out that the patriarch disinherited his daughters while making his very young, very attractive assistant the sole heir. So when not baking exquisite sourdough breads from long-living sourdough starters or eating the mouthwatering specialties of local restaurants, Phoebe and her growing witchcraft skills investigate the auction attendees and especially the complicated Weatherly family.

This second in the series treads lightly through Phoebe’s magical talents, especially when it comes to her still uncontrollable ability to slow time. While that does come in handy when menaced by a threatening SUV, it is Phoebe’s practical questioning of suspects that proves far more successful in tracking down a murderer. That doesn’t mean that a potion to awaken her memory doesn’t come into play, nor that her talent doesn’t save her from a nasty fall through a rotten board. Their both being recent divorcees have Rich and Phoebe deciding to put a pause on any possible romance between them, but the sparks still sizzle through their “professional” interactions. This mystery with a paranormal twist will appeal to those looking for a genre-blending read, but foodies will also find so much to love about this series. The description of a smash burger dripping with butter is extraordinary, making the inclusion of its recipe almost a requirement. Topping off this delightfully magical mystery is of course Bob the cat, who accompanies Phoebe on bike rides in a spaceship-like backpack. This is the perfect cozy read for any time of the year but of course suits those looking for a little witchcraft to add to the Halloween holiday season.

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Princess Fuzzypants here: Phoebe (and stowaway Bob, the cat) go to a high end estate auction only to discover another body. It is the woman who is in charge of the event but somehow Phoebe is convinced that the police are looking at her as a serious suspect. So she decides to investigate in spite of the usual police warnings.. She does enlist childhood friend Rich to get involved. Rich may become her love interest and as a former cop and a current PI, he has the tools to look into things.

Someone takes exception to her questions. They go from a text warning her to back off all the way to being forced off a dark and deserted road when she is returning from one of her quests. Her witchy talent saves her from serious harm but she is skating on thin ice. Even Rich wants her to stop. She gives lip service to her intention to stay away but she cannot help herself. She goes into a dangerous situation, alone, and her life is in jeopardy. I get frustrated when seemingly intelligent heroines sign up as Darwin Award nominees. It detracts from what might have been a really good story. There are some interesting characters and relationships but I have to knock off points when Phoebe is so naive and dumb. Three purrs and two paws up.

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This is book two in A Witches' Brew Mystery, and Phoebe Winchester is back.
This installment begins with life back to normal for the citizens of Raven Creek after the events of Steeped to Death. Phoebe and her cat Bob are getting back to normal while she runs The Earl's Study and practices her witchy abilities.
That is until Bob happens upon a dead body, and once again, Phoebe finds herself investigating.
This series has everything you could ever want in a magical, cozy mystery.
There are plenty of twists,lots of new friends, a curious cat, delicious sounding recipes, a budding romance, and a little bit of magic.A fun, witchy murder mystery set in a quaint small town in Washington state.I really enjoyed this book.
We also get to know Rich a bit better, he seems like a good guy so hopefully they can work things out. Rich seems to be the main love interest, though Phoebe observes early on that she would go out with Leo if he asked so I hope that this doesn't become a weird love triangle.Overall this is a series definitely worth reading, especially if you like paranormal cozies (and even if you don't, because the paranormal angle is not emphasized and isn't used as a crutch to solve the murders).

Thank you to the author, publisher, and to NetGalley for providing me with an ARC.

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It’s been over half a year since the events in Steeped to Death, and Phoebe has settled in well at her late aunt Eudora’s house and business; she’s still learning about magic, and her own abilities, still learning to be part of the small town community of Raven Creek, but she’s much more comfortable with her new life.

Until she visits a very upscale mansion during a estate sale/auction, in order to bid on a large lot of books for her store, where–thanks to a stowaway ginger tabby–she ends up finding a body, and things get complicated. Again.

Let me start with the positives: these are not really short books, and yet I managed to read this one in two sittings. Phoebe’s narration is generally engaging, and the magic as used in the world of the series is unobtrusive, more fanciful than elaborate, as it were, which appeals to me.

“Was it possible to be jealous of a cat? Actually, yeah, pretty much all the time. Cats had the best lives.” (Chapter 21)

The dialogue is competent, the mystery interesting, Bob the cat steals every scene, and the mystery is interesting in its own right.

The cast is fairly diverse, especially for small town Washington state, with a couple of Black women as prominent secondary characters (though, I’m sorry to note, both play the “indispensable sidekick and best Black friend” to Phoebe’s white protagonist).

We even get a bisexual secondary character, and this is introduced to smoothly, so naturally, I almost missed it. Hooray!

Phoebe’s internal dialogue is peppered with pop culture references, but the author doesn’t aim for the most current, hottest thing; instead she mentions older shows, books and movies–not necessarily classics, but say, Gilmore Girls, Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, etc.–which makes her come across, for the most part, as a sensible woman in her mid-thirties, coming to terms with some rather big life changes; she didn’t just move houses, after all. There are large cultural shifts between city and suburb, and between suburb and small mountain town.

The author makes the physical setting come alive; the weather, the green of trees and bushes, the seasons. From driving the serpentine roads up in the mountains of Washington state in the rain, to dealing with the petty politics of a small town, and getting to know the one person providing a specific service in the area–the one pet store, the one garage, the one African restaurant–the spaces where Phoebe exists feel real.

As many series books do, this second title in the Witches Brew series suffers from “let me recap the entire previous book and introduce all the secondary characters of the series in the first chapter” syndrome. To be clear, many readers appreciate a reminder of the world building when they go months between installments in a series, and I have no problem with that; my objection is to vomiting every detail in the first chapter, because there are better ways to do it.


One of the weakness of the first book was giving too much detail on things like cooking or baking, and it feels more pronounced here.

Phoebe spends far too long going over every step of baking for her store, and musing over what kinds of bread she’s baking, what she is going to bake tomorrow, what she wants to try soon, and so on.

It’s pages of baking.

Then it’s every step of making breakfast or dinner, with asides on what cheese she buys and why, and why it’s not what sh’es using right now, and so on. We even learn–again!–how to boil pasta. Add in the details of almost every outfit she puts on, with Phoebe’s internal monologuing on the whys and wherefore of every piece of clothing she decides to wear, and that’s a lot of dead wood that doesn’t pay off.

A ruthless editor should have cut that off, and made the book both better and a good twenty pages shorter.

And yet, this is not my biggest problem with the book.

My real problem is that Phoebe repeatedly behaves with pre-teen Nancy Drew levels of sense.

She butts in on the police investigation of the crime, supposedly because she’s afraid the cops will suspect her (she found the body, after all), and wants to point them in the right direction instead. Which, okay, this is a cozy mystery, she’s supposed to poke her nose in.

And yet, when she finds out things that the cops can’t otherwise know, she never tells them.

Even after someone runs her off the road, she doesn’t tell the cops about the two conversations she has overheard that she is convinced hold the solution to the case–and there is no internal dialogue explaining why she keeps those all-important details to herself.

We hear her debate tops and shoes, bread and teas, endlessly, but not this.

When I tell you that’s not even the most ill-advised thing Phoebe does after someone has already tried to kill her, you’ll understand why I wanted to shake her silly a few times.

Still, I did read over 300 pages in two sittings.


Glutton for punishment that I am, I will likely give Ms Rue a third chance to win me over, should there be a third book in the series; if the flood of baking, cooking, and sartorial detail continues, I’ll have learned my lesson.

Death by a Thousand Sips gets a 7.00 out of 10.

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