The Accidental Alchemist, by Gigi Pandian

Gigi Pandian’s murder-mystery offers comfort on rainy days with teahouses, a warm kitchen and a fun read. She sets her scene in Portland, Oregon, a.k.a. Portlandia, the epicenter of the alternative fringe—a perfect place to hide in plain sight.

So thought Zoe Faust, a 300 year old who doesn’t look a day over twenty-eight and a stylishly white haired, plant alchemist. Alchemy, the forerunner of chemistry, practiced by notables such as Isaac Newton, should not be confused with magic or wizardry. Although Zoe has discovered the elixir of life—maybe it’s her vegan smoothies—she has grown “rusty” in her ability to transform base metals into gold.

Her principal houseguest, Dorian, a gargoyle, bears a striking resemblance to the stone creatures that decorate the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris. Homesick for France, he enjoys his morning espresso and his copy of Le Monde. He desperately needs Zoe’s transformative talents and pays his rent as her gourmet vegan chef.

A surly teen, Brixton finds temporary shelter in Zoe’s “haunted house,” the scene of a recent murder. He’s frustrated in his efforts to expose Dorian to his incredulous friends.

Portland is a place where people can leave their former lives and secrets behind. Zoe and Dorian certainly have something to hide, as do most of the other characters. One or more of them kills to protect his, her or their secrets. Together, Zoe, Dorian and Brixton attempt to unravel a series of interlocking calamities, literally dropped on Zoe’s doorstep.  Zoe senses evil alchemy at work and realizes that she can’t trust all of her neighbors.

Gigi Pandian offers light diversion as she explores “underground” Portland, including the “Shanghai Tunnels” once used by kidnappers who enslaved unwilling mariners. The author engages the reader’s senses with a spectrum of fragrances, tones and shades. She backs up her descriptions with a treasury of recipes that let her readers taste Zoe’s adventure.

The Accidental Alchemist introduces a series of mystery novels and offers light reading for those who wish to transform their world into a figurative “Portland.”


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