I am delighted to have a guest post by a fellow Night Owl reviewer and cozy mystery author, T.C. LoTempio!
Cats make great detectives, too!
by T.C. LoTempio
As a writer of cozy mysteries featuring an extremely communicative cat (the Nick and Nora mysteries, debut December 2014) I must confess to being partial to mysteries that feature cats! (not that I don’t like dogs, or give dogs equal time, I do, I do! But when you own a twenty-two pound blogging cat, your loyalties are naturally going to gravitate toward the feline end!).
Here are a few of my favorite feline cozies!
The Magical Cats Series by Sofie KellyThis series centers around Kathleen Paulson, a librarian from Boston, and two stray cats with special powers, Owen and Hercules, in fictional Mayville Heights, Minnesota. Kathleen has moved to Mayville Heights from Boston after her fiancée marries a waitress after an argument, and ends up adopting two strays, a tabby named Owen and a tuxedo named Hercules. Turns out the cats have magical powers: Owen can turn invisible and Hercules can walk through walls! Which provides quite a bit of humor! There is also a bit of romance in the form of uptight detective Marcus Gordon. Plenty of quirky characters and homespun charm! Kathleen finds herself a murder suspect in the first volume setting up the romantic tension between herself and Detective Gordon for future adventure.
In my favorite entry, FINAL CATCALL, Kathleen’s ex-boyfriend Andrew shows up, desperate to win her back, but Kathleen’s unsure just where she stands with Detective Marcus. And when a local theatre festival relocates to Mayville Heights and its insufferable director is found shot, Kathleen (and her cats) are in the thick of a puzzling mystery once again.
The latest in the series, FAUX PAW, revolves around the arrival of an art exhibition at the Mayville Heights library. Thanks to the overbearing curator and high-tech security system that comes with it, Kathleen’s life has been completely disrupted. Even Owen and Hercules have been affected, since their favorite human doesn’t seem to have a spare moment to make their favorite fish crackers or listen to Barry Manilow.But when Kathleen stops by the library late one night and finds the curator sprawled on the floor—and the exhibition’s most valuable sketch missing—it’s suddenly time to canvass a crime scene.
The charm of this series lies in the quirkiness of its main characters and, of course, the two cats with their seemingly supernatural abilities. A great series!
The Cat in the Stacks series by Miranda (aka Dean) James
Diesel is quite large for his size, but very lovable, and Charlie walks him on a leash and takes him pretty much everywhere he goes. Unlike the cats in the “Magical Cats” series, Diesel is more of a sidekick for Charlie than an active participant in the mystery solving – although he does lend a paw from time to time. The series has many charming characters, some of which have even been put into a spin-off series by James. My favorite is THE SILENCE OF THE LIBRARY, which revolves around a library exhibit to honor YA novelists – in particular, one octogenarian, Electra Barnes Cartwright, the author of the beloved “Veronica Thane” series. Once news of the author’s appearance goes viral, another rumor surfaces – that of five unpublished manuscripts – drawing out one rabid fan who will stop at nothing short of murder to get hold of the rare books. Series book devotees will find the references and facts about actual series books interspersed throughout the book interesting, and it adds to the mystery. Charlie and Diesel should be around entertaining us for many years to come.
The latest in the series, NO CATS ALLOWED, has Charlie facing trouble at the workplace. The new library director, Elwyn Dillard, is a brash, unfriendly Yankee who’s on a mission to cut costs—and his first targets are the archive and the rare book collection. Dillard quickly raises the hackles of everyone on staff, including Charlie’s fiery friend Melba—whom Dillard wants to replace with someone younger. But his biggest offense is declaring all four-legged creatures banned from the stacks. With enemies aplenty, the suspect list is long when Dillard’s body is discovered in the library. But things take a turn for the worse when a threatening e-mail throws suspicion on Melba, and Charlie and Diesel have to put in overtime to clear her!
The Mrs. Murphy Series by Rita Mae Brown (and Sneaky Pie Brown)
What can you say about a mystery series co-authored by a cat! The first adventure, WISH YOU WERE HERE, published in 1991, introduced us to Mary Minor Haristeen, (aka Harry) and her constant companions, Mrs. Murphy, a tabby and Tucker, a Welsh Corgi. Harry is the postmistess of the town of Crozet, Virginia, a job that puts her in an excellent to figure out who is murdering, in ghastly fashion, various pillars of her community. Postcards are sent to a wealthy contractor shortly before parts of his body are found in a cement mixer and then to a storeowner whose corpse, tied to a railroad track, is cut in three parts by the express. The cards alert Harry and friends to a plot that will take more lives before they discover the treasure that inspires the violence. Quirky is the middle name of most of the characters in this long-running series, and Brown always gives a brief rundown of all the characters at the beginning of each book, apparently to keep readers from becoming confused at the large cast.
My pick of the series is THE LITTER OF THE LAW. Autumn has descended and crops are being harvested all over Crozet, Virginia, ideal conditions for a scenic drive for Harry and husband Fair. Bucolic views are all well and good, but Harry’s nose for trouble leads her straight to a cornfield’s macabre scarecrow—an all too real murder victim that frightens all but the noisy crows! Nothing, however, frightens the irrepressible Mrs. Murphy, because we all know that while it’s Harry who receives the credit for the crime solving, it’s really Mrs. Murphy and her friends, Pewter the cat and Tucker the dog, who are the real detectives!
And while I don’t like to toot my own horn, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t give a brief shout out to the Nick and Nora mystery series, written by yours truly, T. C. Lotempio! Nora Charles is an ex-true crime reporter who leaves her high pressure job on a Chicago newspaper to return to her hometown of Cruz, California, to take over her late mother’s specialty sandwich shop. Along the way she makes the acquaintance of a tubby tuxedo cat she names Nick. Nick belonged to a PI who may or may not be dead, and the cat seems to have extraordinary abilities of his own. He’s remarkably adept at sniffing out a clue, and he can spell them out with his favorite toy, Scrabble Tiles!
In the first volume, MEOW IF IT’S MURDER, Nick and Nora undertake to solve the mystery of a socialite’s drowning. It was classified as an accident but Nora has her doubts. And in the latest entry, CLAWS FOR ALARM, Nora goes undercover at an art school in an attempt to clear her sister Lacey of a murder charge. The victim: Lacey’s art professor, with whom she had a violent argument right before his death. Complicating matters for Nora: the homicide detective in charge of the case, who just happens to be her old college flame….
I hope that you’ll be inclined to try one of these wonderful mysteries. And there are more, lots more!
by T. C. Lotempio
GENRE: Cozy mystery
“The purrfect sleuthy duo”* is back, and this time murder hits close to home for Nora Charles and her partner Nick, a stealthy little feline gumshoe groomed to solve a shocking crime.
Nick trotted along beside me as we made our way deeper into the warehouse. Suddenly, he froze, tail upright, the hairs puffed and fluffed out like a giant fan.
“What’s wrong?” I whispered, even though I knew he couldn’t answer. We stood in silence for a moment, and suddenly, I did hear something. A very faint sound, from far away . . . like a door closing.
“Come on,” I hissed. I lifted my head, sniffed at the air. It smelled pretty stale, but there was another scent, cigarette smoke. I racked my brain, trying to remember if I’d seen either Julia or Samms smoking.
Nick’s tail swished, and he pawed at arrows painted on the ground. He trotted ahead of me at a brisk pace, and I fell into step. We followed the painted arrows along a white-tiled hallway down to a door with a shade pulled all the way down. A sign placed haphazardly in the window proclaimed it CLOSED.
I tried the door, which seemed to be stuck. I looked at the doorframe, which appeared to be less than sturdy, and checked it for alarm wires. Seeing none, I raised my leg and gave the door a swift, hard kick. It clicked open an inch, and I pushed it all the way open. We walked into a tiny office not much bigger than a postage stamp. A large metal desk and battered file cabinet took up the majority of the space. Another door at the far end stood partway open. Nick suddenly tensed, and I saw the hairs on his back rise. His tail fluffed out, and he started to growl, deep in his throat.
I frowned. “What’s wrong? What do you sense?”
Nick reared up on his hind legs and then shot through the partially open door. I had no choice but to follow. The room I now found myself in appeared to be a slightly larger version of the previous office. Nick crouched in front of a large metal desk, and as I entered, he shifted his body slightly. I caught a glimpse of two feet, very still, shod in the pair of eggplant Louboutins I’d admired earlier in the evening.
“Oh crud,” I cried. “Please tell me that’s not what I think it is.” I walked around Nick and peeped around the edge of the desk. I saw a twisted figure in a white raincoat bunched up around shapely legs, a tumble of dark hair covering its face, the neck bent at an unnatural angle.
“Shoot,” I said.
“MA-ROW!” Nick yowled.
I heard a sound behind me as Nick dived under a nearby chair. My heart started to beat wildly in my chest. The last time he’d pulled something like that I’d been caught next to a dead body and hauled off to the police station. His fat rear had barely wiggled out of sight before the door slammed back and I found myself looking first down the barrel of a .45 and then, as I raised my gaze, at the grim, unsmiling face of Detective Leroy Samms. He looked at me, then at the feet, then back to me again. He lowered his arm, slipped his gun back into his shoulder holster. “Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.”
I responded almost automatically. “He didn’t drag me. I walked in on my own.”
One eyebrow quirked. “Pardon? It’s an expression, Nora.”
“Oh, sure. I knew that.” The queasy sensation in my stomach was getting stronger, and I really felt like gagging. I started to push past Samms, but his strong fingers reached out and encircled my elbow in a grip of steel.
“No need to run off.”
I pressed my palm against my cheek. “I—I’m not. I just felt a little . . . squeamish.”
“Of course you do,” he said, still not cracking a smile. “I’ve got some Pepto back at the station. Fix you right up. Then we’re going to have a chat, you and I.” His grip on my elbow tightened. “Ms. Charles, you’ve got some explaining to do.”
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Born in New York City, T. C. LoTempio is the national bestselling author of Meow If It’s Murder, the first in the Nick and Nora Mystery series. She has been a staff reporter at the young adult magazine Susabella Passengers and Friends for more than a decade. When she isn’t reporting or writing novels, she and her cat Rocco fundraise for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read.
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