Author: Carolyn Hart
My first Carolyn Hart mystery novel. Some may wonder just how I have gotten by so long without a Carolyn Hart in my TBR pile. I don't quite understand it myself, but this title broke the cycle. Find out about this new book (series, I hope) from this prolific writer.
Copyright: October 2012 (Berkley) 304 pgs
Series: 1st in Nela Farley Mysteries
Mystery Sub-genre: Traditional - Cozy
Main Characters: Nela Farley, unemployed investigative reporter
Setting: Modern day, Craddock Oklahoma
Obtained Through: Publisher for honest review
Nela Farley is a newly unemployed investigative reporter - and she is greiving the loss of her fiance. So she helps her free-spirited sister Chloe by temporarily doing her job at the Haklo Foundation while Chloe goes on a free trip to Tahiti. Nela thinks she is expressing her grief by imaginging that she can hear cats lately.
Nela arrives and finds that she is staying in the apartment over a garage on the grounds of a mansion. Within minutes of arriving, the resident cat, Jugs, that she is also to care for, seems to be talking to her. That is disturbing enough, and then Jugs shares that his former owner died when the "board on the second stair moved" and Nela thinks a suspicious skateboard was placed on the stair. Her first night is disturbed by an intruder searching and smashing possesions.
Monday morning rolls around and Nela plunges into the political hotbed at the Foundation. Then there is the matter of the newspaperman with the troubling blue eyes who is investigating a long string of vandalism over the last few months at the foundation. Unfortunately, the killer is watching and does strike again.
Nela is a great amateur sleuth, reasonable, calm, and thoughtful. Her grieving is not too much, but makes her real. The Reporter Steve is a great addition as he deals with his distrust of women since his divorce, yet he finds himself drawn to Nela. The various employees at the Foundation are all detailed portrayals, and all are suspects. It makes for a large field of possibilities. Jugs, the cat, is such a dear. But don't think that Nela hears Jugs often. You can count the instances on one hand. It is not a lynchpin to the story.
Craddock makes a good smallish town where you grow up knowing all your neighbors. This makes the reporter and the police really stretch to understand the events. Unfortunately, it is easy to blame the new people, like Nela and her sister Chloe.
The story grabs you in the first few paragraphs and the pacing keeps the reader engaged. I found it hard to put down. The plot felt very natural and the believability held strongly.
The climax was wonderfully tense and exciting. The reveal of the killer was not necessarily surprising, simply because I had seriously considered all the suspects by that time. The wrap-up leaves the the possiblity of another Nela Farley mystery and I am looking forward to it.
This is a suspenseful cozy reminiscent of a traditional mystery. It may not be set in England, but I see it as very close to a modern American Christie in the style of mystery.
Rating: Truly Near Perfect - Buy two copies: one for you and one for a friend.
If you crochet, here is a cute hat you can whip up for a party to wear or for decoration. Does your cat enjoy hats? The pattern comes in several sizes.