by Cynthia Chow
& Sandra Murphy
This week we have reviews of 5 fun pet related mysteries-Claws for Concern: A Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James, The Fast and the Furriest: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan, Death by a Whisker: A Cat Rescue Mystery by T.C. LoTempi, The Cat of the Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delany, and Unbridled Murder: A Carson Stables Mystery by Leigh Hearon. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of all 5 books, along with links you can use to purchase them.
Claws for Concern: A Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda James
Review by Sandra Murphy
Charlie and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel, work part-time at the Athena College library and the public library which doesn’t leave a lot of spare time. His beloved Helen Louise says she’s going to spend less time at her bistro restaurant but is having a hard time letting go. Charlie’s daughter has a new baby she’s willing to share for short periods of time, and Charlie’s glad to help. His son and daughter-in-law are expecting, too. Luckily, Diesel thinks babies are wonderful.
There’s an older man Charlie sees at the library, a stranger but Charlie feels like he should know him. Finally, the man asks if Charlie can help him find out who lives at an address. Charlie is stunned to see it’s his own address. The man is researching Charlie’s late aunt’s husband.
In the meantime, Jack Pemberton, a true crime writer, wants Charlie to be part of his next book. The topic will be amateur detectives. Charlie doesn’t want the publicity, but the book hasn’t been approved by Jack’s publisher yet so Charlie’s got time to think it over.
Bill Delaney is the man looking for Charlie’s uncle. While Charlie ponders about inviting Bill to stay at the house, Bill is hit by a car and hospitalized. Charlie finds out from Jack that Bill is suspected of four long ago murders but nothing could be proven.
Jack and Charlie agree to research the murders as well as find out if the hit and run was an accident or attempted murder. Unraveling the clues from the past and the present will be a challenge for both of them.
This is the ninth book in the popular series (due to Diesel, of course!). Charlie remains a true Southern gentleman while expanding his circle of friends. Helen Louise does make an effort to let her manager actually manage. She wants to spend time with the new babies in the family, too. Changes are coming and readers will look forward to how Charlie, Diesel, and Helen Louise face them.
The mystery is a good one, with a satisfying but surprising conclusion. Reading Charlie and Diesel’s latest escapades is like a visit with an old friend.
This is the ninth book in the series. James also writes the Southern Ladies mysteries (four), featuring the Ducote sisters. For an enjoyable visit down South, spend time with Charlie and Diesel. You’ll be glad you did.
The Fast and the Furriest: A Second Chance Cat Mystery by Sofie Ryan
Review by Sandra Murphy
Second Chance is a shop for refurbished and repurposed items from tea cups to furniture. A big project is underway as one of Sarah Grayson’s friends has decided to clear his house so his kids don’t have to do it. Sarah has help from Mac, her right-hand guy, plus her older friends. She likes to keep them busy because without something to do, they look for crimes to solve. Mr. P is a computer whiz and has his private investigator’s license. His beloved Rose is his apprentice. Charlotte, Liz, and her granddaughter Avery, plus Elvis the cat, round out the group.
Mac has never been one to talk about his past. Sarah would like to know, of course, but values his work over her curiosity. When a woman shows up and asks for Mac, it’s a surprise—especially when she leaves the cryptic message, “Tell him I believe him.”
Mac sets off to look for the woman but says he couldn’t find her. When her body shows up, he’s clearly the main suspect. It’s a fine line between investigating to help Mac and prying into his private life. When the Angels, as the private eye wannabes call themselves, try to figure out what happened, Sarah has to either pitch in and help or rush to their rescue when they go to far. Helping is much easier.
An old friend of Mac’s also comes to town and reveals a bit more of Mac’s past. Even though Mac lives on the premises, this is more than Sarah’s found out about him since they met. Knowing Mac is innocent and proving it are two very different things. Secrets have a way of coming out, just when you think you’re safe.
This is book five in the series. Sarah loves her work and her friends although she wishes they wouldn’t get into so much trouble. There’s a bit of romance in the air, too. Just when you think things are running smoothly, that’s when things start to change—and not always for the best.
This is an enjoyable series, in part for the lessons in refinishing, reimagining of old items but also for the friendships between the characters and the murders they solve. Sarah is a calm woman, comfortable with her choices, not one to panic although there are times anyone would. Elvis the cat adds his own style of humor and mystery solving skills to the tale.
Death by a Whisker: A Cat Rescue Mystery by T.C. LoTempi
Review by Cynthia Chow
Now the proud publicity director of Deer Park, North Carolina’s Friendly Paws Animal Shelter, Sydney McCall never regrets having left her boyfriend or the prestigious job in New York City. Wanting to make the most of the open-to-all-animals shelter run by her sister Kat, Sydney hopes that the planned “Caterday” adoption event at the Crowden’s Bookstore will find happy homes for needy kitties. After the planned bestselling author bows out due to a car accident, what seems to be an even better replacement soon turns sour. Ulla Townsend may have been a former Deer Park native made famous through her television shopping show, but her bestselling autobiography is naming names and not lessening the bad reputation she left behind.
Sydney is on hand at the bookstore to see more than one combative interaction between Ulla, her television crew, and Deer Park locals, so it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise when the shopping host is found dead in the bookstore bathroom. Initially declared to be the result of an allergic reaction, Sydney can’t help but suspect that Ulla’s illicit affairs, jealous rivals, or mean girl reputation may have instigated a far more nefarious act. Sydney’s boyfriend – well, they still haven’t kissed yet – Homicide Detective Will Worthington warns her against investigating, especially as this case has become something of a job interview between him and the mayor’s nephew. When a shelter volunteer who still resents Ulla after twenty years goes missing, Sydney can’t sit idly by and watch the police come to their own hasty conclusions.
Sydney adores her twenty-two-pound wandering rescue cat Toby, and there’s nothing more than she’d like than to see the shelter’s success. Her compassion and loyalty to her friends runs just as high, which explains how she becomes so involved in the mystery of Ulla and her complicated past. A handsome newcomer to Deer Park emphasizes Will’s many absences as he’s called away to duty, but old high school crushes are hard to ignore. The relationships between Kat, Sydney, and her bestie roommate are warm and relatable, making this a heartwarming tale depicting the bond between women as well as their pets. Animal lovers will, of course, relish this series that highlights the charm and love of our non-human companions, and they won’t be surprised if they happen to lend a hand, or paw, in order to solve the crime.
The Cat of the Baskervilles: A Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mystery by Vicki Delany
Review by Cynthia Chow
For Cape Cod’s Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, their West London Theater Festival’s upcoming production of The Hound of Baskervilles is an opportunity to promote the Emporium’s various wares. The small repertoire company has hired renowned actor Sir Nigel Bellingham to play the role of the Great Detective, with a fundraiser planned to lure donors into contributing enough to support future productions. The Emporium’s part-owner Gemma Doyle is optimistic that attendees will spend their pre- and post-show times browsing their collection of Sherlock and Victorian-related items, but she’s leery of her neighboring Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room catering the fundraising event. After all, Sir Nigel is about forty years past his best days and his undeniable alcoholism and arrogance make a successful performance unlikely. The odds drop to nothing when his final curtain call arrives before the play even has a chance to open.
An understudy, a past-due ingénue, and a much-abused personal assistant number among those prospering from the revised playbill, but it is baker Jayne Wilson’s mother who is first pulled in by the police. Gemma quickly gleans of the connection between Leslie Wilson and Sir Nigel, and unfortunately Gemma’s nemesis Detective Louise Estrada isn’t far behind. Protective of her friend and believing Leslie to be innocent, Gemma isn’t above a little discreet tampering with evidence, eavesdropping, or dropping in on interviews. It’s a good thing that Gemma has the assistance of rare book dealer Grant Thompson, although his presence is stirring up the testosterone levels of an increasingly irritated Detective Ryan Ashburton.
Gemma is less arrogant than the Sherlock Holmes played by Robert Downey, Jr., more sociable than Benedict Cumberbatch’s, and certainly not as drug-addicted or promiscuous as Jonny Lee Miller’s. Gemma is simply perplexed that others do not notice as much as she, or why her deductions should not be expressed so readily. She has learned to dampen down her opinions about Jayne’s inadvisable relationship with a handsome actor, and perhaps Gemma as well as Ryan are learning to accept one another for who they are. The cat of the title, Gemma’s personal Moriarty who continues to see her as a food provider and not much more, delights with his presence and irascible charm. The antics of the cast and crew make for a surfeit of humorous and entertaining moments, just as one would expect with a group of egocentric, attention-demanding personalities. Gemma’s wit is as sharp as her intelligence, and with every new installment she becomes more likable and entertaining. The friendship between Gemma and Jayne is allowing them to better understand one another, ensuring that they have become an outstanding and delightful detecting duo.
Unbridled Murder: A Carson Stables Mystery by Leigh Hearon
Review by Cynthia Chow
For Annie Carson, almost nothing is more important than horses. In fact, not wanting to compete with her love of horses derailed her previous marriage. So it’s out of the ordinary that the trainer and ranch owner in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula is anxiously looking forward to her upcoming date with traveling CEO Marcus Colbert. The one call that would cause her to pause with her makeover activities is from Deputy Tony Elizalde, asking for guidance on horses he plans to rescue from an East Washington shelter. The news that the horses are designated for the slaughterhouse is devastating, but not as shocking as the report that Tony’s plane has gone down over the Snoqualmie Pass.
Taking over the duties to transfer the horses safely back to a quarantined ranch, Annie and her dog Wolf drive her F-250 and borrowed trailer across the state to the insular and very guarded East Washington town.Instead of the planned quick pick-up and getaway, Annie discovers the body of one of the shelter owners shot dead on his ranch. Prevented by a suspicious sheriff from leaving town, Annie’s gun is confiscated while she is stranded in a very dodgy hotel. Annie finds some support from like-minded horse advocates, but an alarming act of vandalism makes her feel even more isolated in the hostile community.
Annie admits that it is her sense of humor that helps to balance out her rather stubborn and very opinionated personality, but she is going to need all of her assertiveness and strength to survive while she is stranded away from her closest allies. Despite their differences in upbringing, she and Marcus have an undeniable physical chemistry, and it is delightful to see how much he genuinely appreciates her prickly personality. What readers will be left with, long after the last page is turned, is a new outlook on the treatment of horses. When they fail to meet expectations or falter in their duties, these often healthy, beautiful animals are discarded or sent out to be killed for food.
The author reveals how there are so many causes and cycles that must be broken in order to help the horses, and few will be left unmoved or without broken hearts. A menacing atmosphere pervades the novel, with Annie’s safety always in jeopardy as she never knows whom to trust. The action-packed scenes are stellar, as well as the descriptions of the gorgeous and dangerous Washington wilderness. This third in the series presents a unique heroine, one whose devotion to horses is as admirable as her wit and intelligence.
To enter to win a copy of all 5 books, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “pets,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen March 3, 2018. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
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