Monday, May 14, 2012

Mysterious Cats: Leann Sweeney & Sofie Kelly

Reviewed by Jeanne

It's no secret that I have a weakness for both mysteries and cats, so I'm bound to give a book with both a try.  Some are good, some are so-so, some annoy me to pieces.  (For the latter, there is a series I continue to read but I fuss a great deal as I do so. For example,  anyone who wears flashy clothes, lots of make up,  and drives a foreign car is going to be guilty of something, where as anyone who wears sturdy, practical clothing and is neat won't be the villain no matter what the clues might indicate. Good thing the cats are cute.) Here are a couple of series I've read lately:

Leann Sweeney also writes The Yellow Rose Mysteries
The Cat, The Quilt and the Corpse by Leann Sweeney combines quilts, cats, and mysteries. This is the first of the “Cats in Trouble” series, and so far every book has had a cat in jeopardy to kick start the plot.  Jillian Hart is newly widowed, living with her three cats who are like her children.  She and her husband had moved to a small town in South Carolina when he died unexpectedly.  In an effort to keep busy, Jill hopes to start a business selling the quilts she makes for cats. (Yes, there are such things: they’re popular at cat shows where the cats are kept in small cages before the judging.  The cages often have padding inside and are usually draped with some sort of material to help keep the cats calmer.  Some cages have elaborate decorations.) One evening she comes home to find a broken window and a missing cat.  The police aren’t too impressed at first, especially since there's a little misunderstanding and the dispatcher believes a child is missing instead of a cat.  When they learn that the cat is a purebred Abyssinian and therefore valuable, interest picks up-- marginally. Luckily for Jillian, young deputy Candace Carson wants to move up into detective work and takes the time to practice her skills on the situation.  The trouble doesn’t stop there, though, and after another attempted catnapping,  murder joins the list of crimes.  

The cats don’t talk nor do they solve mysteries, but the cats theme is as strong as the mystery and most of the characters have a pet or two, including some folks involved in a cat rescue. The mysteries are well-plotted and there's a solid cast of characters.  I can't say I'm hooked, but they're pleasant enough.

This isn’t a series you need to read in order.  The other titles are The Cat, the Professor, and the Poison; The Cat, the Lady and the Liar; and soon to come, The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon.

Sofie Kelly is the pseudonym of Young Adult author Darlene Ryan.
Kathleen Paulson has taken a job as head librarian as the small town of Mayville Heights, Minnesota renovates its library.  Her friends and family are more than a bit astonished that she'd choose to leave the bright lights of Boston, but after a lifetime spent moving around with the actor parents, she's ready to settle down.  Besides, it's far away from her former fiance who felt Kathleen wasn't spontaneous enough for him and, as if to prove it, married someone else two weeks after he broke up with Kathleen.  She's already finding new friends, including a pair of stray kittens who have adopted her, and is enjoying the Minnesota vistas when an obnoxious visiting conductor ends up dead.  Not only is Kathleen the one to discover the body, but he may have been assaulted in the library itself.  This puts her at the top of the suspect list. 

So begins Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, the first in Sofie Kelly's "Magical Cats" series of mysteries. As you may assume from the series title, it turns out that the cats, Hercules and Owen, may have some unsettling abilities, like being able to disappear or walk through walls. For me, the selling point in this series is the great conversations Kathleen has with her female friends; Kelly has a real knack for making the conversations sound both funny and real, and will remind readers of their own good times.  The mystery is competently done, the cats are relatively catlike and while they don't talk, they seem to understand enough to come up with a clue or two. There's the requisite handsome detective who irritates Kathleen, though everyone can see they're meant for each other, lots of food, interesting characters, and a good sense of place. If I have a gripe, it's that I didn't see a lot of library work being done by Kathleen.  It's lucky for her that she has a good staff and volunteers to help patrons. The second in the series is Sleight of Paw;   Copycat Killing will be coming out in May.  If the cover is to be believed, perhaps spring has finally come to Minnesota, after two books of snow, ice, sleet and chill!

Two more cat mystery series will be reviewed later, after I get some of the cat hair out of the keyboard.

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