It’s all fun and games until someone takes a flying cat to the head. Two new cozy mysteries feature cats who are characters in their own right (and who occasionally get airborne as the situation demands), along with the punniest of titles.
Librarian and archivist Charlie Harris is well-known around Athena, Mississippi, as the man walking a 35-pound Maine Coon cat on a leash. Even folks who don’t know Charlie recognize Diesel the cat. When Charlie decides to audit a medieval history class, the only student close to his age is a woman whom he overhears in a fight with their professor and who then comes to Charlie’s office asking if he’ll be her study buddy. Charlie says no, and just a few days later his classmate has turned up dead, kicking off the central mystery of Miranda James’s The Pawful Truth.
Not only is Charlie dealing with one—then two—murders, he’s also a doting grandfather who also has a new kitten that needs training. He has boarders and a housekeeper who make his house not just a home but a family, though one of them might be a suspect. His research background gives him a leg up where investigation is concerned, and of course it’s easy to gain folks’ confidence if your enormous cat likes them (but if Diesel is wary, watch out). Athena is both modern and old-fashioned. Vestiges of the old South remain, and race relations can be tricky to navigate. All this makes for a rich stew featuring an independent senior leading a full, engaging life. Far from pawful, this is a treat.
Christin Brecher debuts a new series centered on a unique profession in Murder’s No Votive Confidence. Stella Wright owns a candle shop on Nantucket Island where she teaches classes to locals and makes custom candles for special occasions. She’s thrilled to have designed a two-foot unity candle for a wedding that will be all anyone talks about on Memorial Day weekend, but her excitement is quickly snuffed out when the bride-to-be’s uncle is found murdered—and the unity candle is the weapon. To save her business, Stella must solve the crime. Murder’s No Votive Confidence is a whodunit in a gorgeous setting with a burgeoning love triangle to complicate things. What’s not to love?
The victim’s cat, Tinker, has a way of turning up in Stella’s path and subtly steering the investigation, but details about the candle-making process and the struggle to keep a small business afloat make Stella’s predicament believable. Her long-standing grudge against/crush on a local cop is stirred up when a reporter starts to court her, though one of their dates ends up with the pair stuck in a tree. Yet she keeps an eye on who’s acting strangely and keeps building a theory of the case, even as it leads her into dangerous territory. Stella may burn the candle at both ends, but readers will love her for it.