Cats Make Great Detectives, Too! - Dark Streets
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 Kelly.
This 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.
Set in the fictional town of Athena, Mississippi, the action centers around librarian Charlie Harris and his Maine Coon cat, Diesel. 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 postmistress 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!
Columnist: Toni LoTempio
While Toni Lotempio does not commit – or solve – murders in real life, she has no trouble doing it on paper. Her lifelong love of mysteries began early on when she was introduced to her first Nancy Drew mystery at age 10 – The Secret in the Old Attic. She lists among her favorite mystery/suspense writers Erle Stanley Gardner, Mary Higgins Clark and James Patterson, as well as EJ Copperman, Steve Hockensmith, Victoria Laurie, Ali Brandon, Rita Mae Brown, Miranda James and Sofie Kelly to name only a few! Toni is also passionate about her love for animals, as demonstrated with her four cats: Trixie, Princess, Maxx and, of course, ROCCO, who not only provided the inspiration for the character of Nick the cat in the Nick and Nora mystery series, but who also writes his own blog and does charity work for Nathan Fillion’s charity, Kids Need to Read! Toni’s also devoted to miniseries like The Thorn Birds, Dancing with the Stars, reruns of Murder She Wrote and Castle (of course!). She (and ROCCO, albeit he’s uncredited) pen the Nick and Nora mystery series from Berkley Prime Crime – the first volume, MEOW IF ITS MURDER, debuted Dec. 2, 2014. She, Rocco and company make their home in Clifton, New Jersey, just twenty minutes from the Big Apple – New York. Visit them at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or www.tclotempio.com