by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of The Cat, the Collector and the Killer, and a couple of links to purchase it. We also have an interview with Leann after the review.
The Cat, the Collector and the Killer: A Cats in Trouble Mystery by Leann Sweeney
Review by Cynthia Chow
The last six months of Jillian Hart’s life in Mercy, South Carolina has been sheer bliss. Newly married to police chief Tom Stewart, they have blended Jillian’s Abyssinian Syrah, Himalayan Chablis, Maine Coon Merlot, and Tom’s diabetic tabby Dashiell into one sublime feline family. Jillian always makes herself available to support a cat cause, so she doesn’t hesitate when Mercy Animal Sanctuary’s owner Shawn Cuddahee asks for help. This time though, it’s to act as a buffer between himself and Chester Winston, the county animal control officer with a restraining order against Shawn that prevents him from making a welfare check on a woman and her wandering cats.
Shawn and Jillian are shocked to discover that the formerly cognizant and compassionate Minnie Schwartz has been collecting dozens of cats, with an even bigger surprise in her bedroom. There Shawn finds the body of the much detested Chester Winston, while the police locate Minnie disheveled and wandering around town. Minnie readily admits to killing Chester, but considering her hospitalization for a mental health check, Jillian questions the confession. Unraveling the mystery of Minnie’s sudden mental decline may help to answer why she was expanding her collection habits, but the real challenge will be discovering how it may be tied to Chester’s death.
Mercy is a town everyone will want to visit, with cat lovers longing to stay forever. Cat-quilt maker Jillian is as sharp an investigator as her husband, and her devotion to her furry companions and the feline cause make her that much more admirable. Her video cat monitoring is a high-tech system that every pet lover should envy, and it even allows Tom to occasionally check in on his wife. Mercy does have its share of prickly residents, none more so than coroner’s investigator Lydia Monk, who continues her obsessive infatuation with Tom despite his very happy marriage.
Author Sweeney continues to balance her appreciation of feline companions with a very realistic mystery, sensitively delving into serious and timely topics. Families play a huge role in this novel, and the contrast between healthy relationships and those twisted by animosity is made starkly apparent. The eighth of this warm and extremely satisfying mystery series remains as fresh as the first, continuing to be full of good humor, compassionate characters, and a suspenseful conclusion.
Interview With Leann Sweeney:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Leann: Since about 1990.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called, and can you tell us a little about it?
Leann:My first published novel came out in May 2004. It was the first in the Yellow Rose Mysteries set in and around Houston. Titled Pick Your Poison, I introduced twin sisters Abby and Kate Rose whose own adoption sends them on a quest to learn about other adoptees biological families. Of course there’s always a murder in the past that must be solved.
KRL:Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Leann: When I first started writing, I began with short stories, some literary, some mystery. I knew that I had to begin with shorts to prove to myself that I could finish something. That idea might have worked because I did finish lots of them, but I find writing short stories much more difficult than novels.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Leann: Knowing we would retire in South Carolina (moving from Texas), I decided on setting the Cats in Trouble series in upstate South Carolina on a lake. (We had bought property on a lake to build a home.) This is a big change from suburban Houston, but the weather is wonderful ? there are seasons! ? and we live surrounded by wild life and lots of huge trees. The lake is so peaceful and is also a great inspiration. I believe water has a tremendous calming effect on the creative side of my brain. My main character is Jillian Hart, a quilter and cat lover like myself. She is kind, generous and as curious as her cats.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Leann: I hope I do both. Between the lines of a cozy is truth. Secrets, lies, love, family, heritage, culture are very important parts of what small town America is all about. I try to make sure those themes appear in every book.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Leann: I write in the mornings when I have the most energy. Right now I am not writing anything because I fell, dislocated my shoulder, broke the bone and tore my rotator cuff. YUCK! I’d rather be writing!
KRL: Not fun! Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Leann: I am an outliner. Sometimes the outlines are almost 20 pages long. I also use a technique suggested by my friend Rick Riordan. I draw a timeline – just a long horizontal line on paper and mark where all the significant events and clues appear. (It often changes after I start writing the draft.) But this little hint REALLY helps me figure out where the book should start so as to avoid excessive backstory up front. Lots of backstory in the beginning doesn’t put the reader in the midst of the mystery right away and I like things to get started quickly.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Leann: The more hours in the day I can write would be ideal but I have energy issues and morning is best. When I was younger I would come home from my day job, take care of the family and then write well into the night. That was fun.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Leann: There is nothing easy about being published by a big house. I finished my first novel and waited 11 years to see it in print. During those 11 years I never stopped writing and submitting. Half of luck is showing up.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Leann: My favorite rejection story happened when I went to a conference and met with an agent. We talked about several things and she told me to send three chapters and a synopsis. But before I could she said that I would never be a good fit, so I didn’t submit. But six weeks later, I got a form rejection later anyway. I also got a rejection from an agent where they had used a red “NO” stamp at the top of my returned submission. Nice, huh?
KRL: What fun.
What made you decide to feature cats in your books?
Leann: It was my editor’s idea to center around cats since she knew I had three and adored them. She thought they would be talking or thinking cats but I told her I just couldn’t do that. There’s so much to write about with cats, talking and thinking would have been difficult for me to pull off. My continuing character cats just act very feline, although I did include a ghost cat in one book after I lost one of my beloved kitties when she was 17 years old. I saw her everywhere after she passed so I decided to use it. It was quite healing.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Leann: Finishing book #9 in The Cats in Trouble series once my arm heals.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Leann: Agatha Christie, Rex Stout, Carolyn Hart and Elizabeth George who taught me so much during a five day workshop. She told me in 1998 I was ready to be published but it still didn’t happen for another six years.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Leann: I do a lot of research both on the internet and through contact with experts. Sometimes that research only translates to one line in a book, but readers need to feel confidence in their narrator.
KRL: What do you read?
Leann: All genres of mystery.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Leann: Crime, true crime and especially foreign crime shows. Love the Brits!
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Leann: Submit and keep writing. If you only have one thing to submit, you’re behind.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Leann:I lived in Britain as a child.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of The Cat, the Collector and the Killer, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “collector,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 27, 2016. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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