Book Review: Escape Claws by Linda Reilly

Title: Escape Claws
Series: A Cat Lady Mystery #1
Author: Linda Reilly
Publisher: Lyrical Underground/Kensington
Publication Date: December 26, 2017
Genres: Mystery, Cozy

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Purchase Links:

              

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Escape Claws
A Cat Lady Mystery #1
Linda Reilly
Lyrical Underground/Kensington
ISBN 978-1-5161-0419-2
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

Here, killer, killer, killer . . .

For the first time in sixteen years, Lara Caphart has returned to her hometown of Whisker Jog, New Hampshire. She wants to reconnect with her estranged Aunt Fran, who’s having some difficulty looking after herself—and her eleven cats. Taking care of a clowder of kitties is easy, but keeping Fran from being harassed by local bully Theo Barnes is hard. The wealthy builder has his sights set on Fran’s property, and is determined to make her an offer she doesn’t dare refuse.

Then Lara spots a blue-eyed ragdoll cat that she swears is the reincarnation of her beloved Blue, her childhood pet. Pursuing the feline to the edge of Fran’s yard, she stumbles upon the body of Theo Barnes, clearly a victim of foul play. To get her and Fran off the suspect list, Lara finds herself following the cat’s clues in search of a killer. Is Blue’s ghost really trying to help her solve a murder, or has Lara inhaled too much catnip?

When Lara goes back to Whisker Jog (don’t you just love that name?) for a short visit, it’s mainly because an old friend has let her know that her aunt needs help and Lara decides it’s time to get past all the years they’ve been out of each other’s lives. Soon after arriving in town, Lara learns that, besides Fran’s physical troubles, she’s also being bullied by a land developer who wants her property.

As it turns out, the bully is murdered and there are legitimate reasons for both Fran and Lara to be prime suspects. Since Lara really doesn’t know who can be trusted, it’s natural that she’d set out to do her own sleuthing, with a little help from Blue, a cat only she can see. This is no easy investigation with its multitudes of possible killers and plenty of red herrings.

A nice touch is the cast of characters…feline characters, that is, and it’s needed because there are so many of them and, as you might anticipate, they demand attention. The pacing of the story is a bit slow but, since character development is so important in a cozy, I kind of expect an author to focus on that in the first book. I liked Lara and Fran but I did wonder at first why Lara would ignore her “beloved” aunt for so long yet stay in touch with an elementary school friend. Ms. Reilly settled my misgivings about that as the tale progressed and, at the end, I was ready for more adventures with these people and cats, not to mention the charming town of Whisker Jog.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2018.

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Over the low clamor sifting through the coffee shop, a
feminine voice suddenly rang out from the doorway.
“Cheer up, everyone—don’t look so glum. Theo Barnes is dead!”

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About the Author

Armed with a degree in Criminal Justice, Linda Reilly once contemplated a career in law enforcement. But life took a twist, and instead she found her niche in real estate closings and title examinations, where the dusty tomes in the Registry of Deeds enticed her into solving mysteries of a different sort. A dyed-in-the-wool New Englander, Linda lives in New Hampshire with her husband, who affectionately calls her “Nose-in-a-Book.” A member of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, she loves solving mysteries of the cozy type. When she’s not pounding away at her keyboard, she can usually be found prowling the shelves of a local bookstore or library.

Website // Facebook Author // Facebook CLM // Twitter

Pinterest // Bookbub // Amazon // Goodreads

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A thread of unease wound through Lara. She wasn’t sure why, but
she couldn’t help thinking that the driver of the black car had been
watching her before he took off. Unfortunately, through the car’s
tinted windows, Lara hadn’t been able to get a glimpse of his face.

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Book Review: The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

The Hideaway
Lauren K. Denton
Thomas Nelson, April 2017
ISBN 978
Trade Paperback

From the publisher—

After her last remaining family member dies, Sara Jenkins goes home to The Hideaway, her grandmother Mags’s ramshackle B&B in Sweet Bay, Alabama. She intends to quickly tie up loose ends then return to her busy life and thriving antique shop in New Orleans. Instead, she learns Mags has willed The Hideaway to her and charged her with renovating it—no small task considering her grandmother’s best friends, a motley crew of senior citizens, still live there.

Rather than hurrying back to New Orleans, Sara stays in Sweet Bay and begins the biggest house-rehabbing project of her career. Amid drywall dust, old memories, and a charming contractor, she discovers that slipping back into life at The Hideaway is easier than she expected.

Then she discovers a box Mags left in the attic with clues to a life Sara never imagined for her grandmother. With help from Mags’s friends, Sara begins to piece together the mysterious life of bravery, passion, and choices that changed her grandmother’s destiny in both marvelous and devastating ways.

When an opportunistic land developer threatens to seize The Hideaway, Sara is forced to make a choice—stay in Sweet Bay and fight for the house and the people she’s grown to love or leave again and return to her successful but solitary life in New Orleans.

When it comes to eye-catching book covers, The Hideaway is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. Immediately, it made me think of summers on a Southern front porch of an old house with floor-to-ceiling windows and, in fact, that’s exactly what this book is about, an old house that’s as much a character as its humans. I’d like to acknowledge the artist but the advance reading copy I have doesn’t give the name. Whoever it is, kudos!

If it weren’t for the fact that running a bed and breakfast requires much more labor than I’ve ever been willing to do, it has always appealed to me but Sara’s reluctance to restore The Hideaway to its former life is understandable. Sara has her own life in New Orleans and she’s truly happy as an antiques dealer; at the same time, she loved her grandmother and there are memories in Sweet Bay, Alabama. It’s easy to see why she would be drawn in by her grandmother’s last wish, her directive for Sara to not only renovate the house but live in the house during the work.

Mags and Sara had different and yet very similar lives and as Sara’s time in Sweet Bay goes by, we see Mags through her own eyes and narrative. While their respective tragedies weren’t at all alike, the one constant is the importance The Hideaway played in their pasts and Sara begins to learn so much about Mags that she had not known before.

Ms. Denton’s debut is a charming tale of family and hidden lives blended with the sometimes annoying but always loyal people who become extended family, often more important than blood relatives. In essence, this is a tale of reaching for what one’s destiny can be and how those closest to us become embedded in our souls and anyone looking for a comfortable, easy story would do well to pick up The Hideaway.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, April 2017.

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Purchase Links:

Barnes & Noble // Kobo // Books-A-Million

Audible // Amazon // Indiebound

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About the Author

Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, Lauren K. Denton now lives with her husband and two daughters in Homewood, just outside Birmingham. In addition to her fiction, she writes a monthly newspaper column about life, faith, and how funny (and hard) it is to be a parent. On any given day, she’d rather be at the beach with her family and a stack of books. The Hideaway is her first novel.

Connect with Lauren

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

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A Pair of Teenies

The Three SistersThe Three Sisters
A Whispers Story
Lisa Unger
Pocket Star, January 2015
ISBN 978-1-4767-9780-9
Ebook

From the publisher—

When Eloise’s granddaughter, twenty-year-old Finley, comes to live with her, Eloise’s abilities start to change—things seem to be getting easier. Her load is lighter, and rather than chasing down people she needs, they are coming to her. She teams up with detective Jones Cooper to help a desperate father bring his daughter’s killer to justice. Meanwhile, Finley, who is developing gifts of her own, has bigger problems than she’s willing to admit. Will Eloise help Finley and others see the difference between justice and revenge, or will things spiral out of control first?

This third and final short story in the Whispers trilogy is a winding down and a passing on of sorts. It’s been thirty years since the accident that killed Eloise’s husband and older daughter and, for the most part, she has come to terms with the psychic abilities she gained afterwards. Her daughter, Amanda, never reconciled with it and has chosen to maintain a physical and emotional distance but her own daughter, Finley, has much in common with her grandmother.

Finley is on the cusp of understanding her own psychic abilities and this is the impetus for Eloise to learn more about the Three Sisters, ghosts from the 1600’s who have been hanging about. Looking into town records, Eloise is reminded that the sisters—Abigail, Sarah and Patience Good—were ancestors of hers on her mother’s side but who is the older woman in similar dress that she’s been seeing lately and what does she want?

In the midst of her personal search for answers, Eloise is helping a private investigator named Jones Cooper discover what happened to a modern girl named Michelle Asher, recently found dead and currently “visiting” Eloise. At the same time, she’s trying to help Finley find her way in this strange world. The Three Sisters have meddled in Finley’s life many times before and they may be about to do so again.

Each of the three short stories have been less dramatic in turn but The Three Sisters has been no less engaging because of that. While very different from Lisa Unger‘s usual work, this is still a good example of her authorial talents.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

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Dead Man WalkerDead Man Walker
A Consignment Shop Novella
Duffy Brown
Berkley Prime Crime, February 2015
ISBN 978-0-698-17802-1
Ebook

From the publisher—

It’s springtime in Savannah, the azaleas and magnolias are in bloom, and Reagan Summerside’s consignment shop, the Prissy Fox, is bustling with customers out to enjoy the beautiful weather. On a day like today, what could go wrong?

As a mortician beautician and housekeeper, Mercedes is no stranger to corpses or messy bathrooms. But the last thing she expects to find in a client’s bathtub is a dead body! Now she’s a murder suspect and it seems like her life is going down the drain. She turns to local lawyer Walker Boone to get her out of hot water.

But Walker has his own surprising connections to the dead man in the tub, and now he needs Reagan’s help to clear his own name—and keep him alive…

The Consignment Shop Mysteries feature the shop owner, Reagan Summerside, as the main character and sleuth but Dead Man Walker is a departure, told from the point of view of Reagan’s kinda sorta occasional boyfriend, Walker Boone. When cleaning lady Mercedes is in danger of being accused of murdering a client, Walker steps in and, before long, he’s identified quite a few people who had varying reasons to want Conway Adkins dead. Unfortunately, he’s also made himself a target for a few attempts on his own life and found out a startling piece of news. Next thing he knows, Detective Aldeen Ross is on her way to arrest him for killing Conway.

This novella is a nice introduction to some of the characters in the series and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers should be aware that this particular crime is not resolved as this is a lead-in to the next full-length novel, Demise in Denim, coming out in April. I’m looking forward to continuing the sleuthing then.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, January 2015.

Book Review: Death Along the Spirit Road by C. M. Wendelboe

Death Along the Spirit Road
C. M. Wendelboe
Berkley Prime Crime, March 2011
ISBN 978-0-425-24002-1
Trade Paperback

FBI agent Manny Tanno has been called to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to solve the murder of Jason Red Cloud, a Lakota Sioux land developer. The investigation puts him right back where he began his career in law enforcement as a tribal officer. One of his fellow officers is now in charge, and the competition between them has only intensified over the years as Manny’s stellar reputation has grown. During this investigation, it’s hard to tell if Lt. Lumpy Looks Twice is trying to help or if he’s out to spoil Manny’s success. Manny will need to consider Lakota history as well as sift through old rivalries to solve this murder. Worse, he’s apt to lose his cushy FBI teaching job if he can’t bring the case to a swift conclusion.

I enjoyed this story, more for the well-described setting and characters than for the mystery, which I figured out pretty fast. The writing is excellent and carries the story along at a good pace. I liked the connection of 1890s to 1970s  (AIM) history of the Lakota tribe that carries us forward to the present day. Manny’s preoccupation with his weight and smoking sometimes bugged me, but not enough to become an issue.

Reviewed by C.K. Crigger, November 2011.