Monday, April 14, 2014

The Big Kitty and Cat Nap: Shadow and Sunny Mysteries by Claire Donally

Reviewed by Jeanne

As should be obvious from my previous reviews, I have a weakness for mysteries with cats. I like to peruse (note I refrained from saying “purruse”) the paperback book shelves for titles with cats on the cover.  It should be noted that a cat on the cover doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a cat in the book, but often is illustrator shorthand for “This is a nice little mystery book.”  Dogs are now being employed in much the same way, for fans who aren’t ailurophiles; and for people who aren’t fond of animals, there are books with pictures of food (usually of the pastry variety) or some craft.  Anyway, here are two of my recently read mysteries with cats:

Sunny Coolidge left her little Maine town for the big city with dreams of making it as a journalist, but her father’s heart attack brought her back home to care for him.  Unfortunately, job prospects are pretty slim in Kittery Harbor and she ends up working for a travel agency owned by a former classmate who fancies himself a mover and shaker.  She feels a bit of a failure, and she has some other incidents from her time in the city she’d like to forget, but she’s not really comfortable back home, either. There’s also the semi-requisite handsome lawman. 

In the first book, The Big Kitty, Sunny meets local crazy cat lady Ada Spurance who needs help finding her $8 million winning lottery ticket which is lost somewhere inside her house.  When Sunny goes to her house to aid in the search, Ada is dead at the bottom of the stairs. Some people assume it was just an unfortunate accident, but Sunny suspects there might be something more to it.  She also ends up being followed by a gray haired male with designs on moving in—Shadow, one of Ada’s many felines.  Given the title of the series, the outcome of that question is pretty much settled from the start.

In Cat Nap, a skirt-chasing veterinarian is murdered.  The vet in question is the ex-husband of Sunny’s frenemy, Jane, so Sunny is drawn in against her better judgment.  The fact that Sunny and Jane are the ones to discover the body certainly doesn’t help their standing with the local police department. Meanwhile, Shadow is not pleased that one of the Two Legs keeps bringing a puppy into his domain.

While there are a number of cozy clich├ęs, the characters are bit more nuanced than some.  Sunny is ambivalent about some of her relationships, struggling not to feel resentful at times. Shadow the cat does part of the narration, but he remains relatively catlike—in other words, he’s not interested in solving mysteries other than where his next meal is coming from—but still a very intelligent cat with a strong and distinctive personality.  The supporting cast is also good, especially Sunny’s father, a former cop who is struggling to adjust to dietary restrictions and having a grown daughter in the house.  He also has a romantic interest in an age-appropriate lady The mystery in the second book was particularly well done, with several quick twists and turns at the end.

In short, this is  a solid series with likeable characters and good plots.

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