This is a debut work from an author I am not familiar with. I wanted to read a cozy for a break and grabbed this from the pile. I was very pleasantly surprised by this new series.
Copyright: May 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 1st in Sunny and Shadow Mystery
Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth, Cozy
Main Character: Sunny Coolidge, former NY City reporter & Shadow the cat
Setting: Modern Day, Kittery Harbor Maine
Obtained Through: from publisher for an honest review
Sunny's father had a heart attack and she returned to her hometown to take care of him. Unfortunately, her newspaper in NY fired her while she was on leave in a wave of cutbacks. She couldn't get a job on the local newspaper, but got hired for miniscule pay at an internet town tourism site. When she shows kindness to the town crazy cat lady, Ada Spruance, she succumbs to a desperate request to help search for a winning lottery ticket before it expires. Sunny suspects that it may not be missing, but maybe stolen. Sunny tips the newspaper off and after everybody in Kittery Harbor - and neighboring towns - know about the missing ticket, Sunny finds Ada dead. Initially the local police chief wants to dismiss it as an accident, but Sunny gets to write a special piece for the newspaper highlighting the questions surrounding Ada's death. The ink is barely dry on the story when attempts to permanently shut Sunny up begin. Somewhere along the way, one of the scores of cats at poor Ada's cat house attaches himself to Sunny. His name is shadow and he has had a hard-luck life and is drawn to Sunny's kind nature. He also witnessed the murder of Ada and wants to ensure Sunny is safe, in his own cat logic. A few chapters are told from Shadow's point of view and they are very well done.
I liked Sunny a lot - more than I do most cozy characters. I found her logical and a person I could spent time with. Her responses to events where believable and understandable. The one drawback was that she was a bit naive for having been a NYC reporter when it came to the Meth drug connection. She was unaware of signs for a Meth user etc, which seems contrary to being a big city reporter. Her relationship with her ailing father and the distrustful Shadow are sincere and sealed the deal on my really liking the character. The seemingly obligatory police love interest, Will, is also a great, level character. Sunny's dad, Mike, is cantankerous and plays tricks on the Shadow since he didn't agree to a pet, but in the end grudgly appreciates Shadow. Shadow is perhaps the best characterization of a sidekick pet in any cozy I have read. He is a hard-luck kitty who is skeptical he will find a gentle home where he isn't kicked or beaten, and when he finds Sunny, he will fight to keep this kind human safe.
Kittery Harbor is a fictional town with a lot of elements to keep the series interesting. It is a harbor with shipping activity - yet just big enough to have some crime and tourism - while keeping a small town feel. The plot starts out simple but develops as the story goes along. Although the likely suspect is identified the suspense comes from not knowing where this person is, even though he appears to be following Sunny and making attempts to stop her. The pacing was steady throughout the book.
The confrontation with the killer was well done, and even realistic in many aspects. Shadow's role in the confrontation was well thought out and executed with a sure hand. I have to say it has everything I could ask for in a cozy with smart writing and well portrayed characters. This may have just become my favorite cozy series. I am looking forward to the next book.