Miss Cuddlywumps reviews Last Licks by Claire Donally
Former New York City reporter Sunny Coolidge, now living in Kittery Harbor, Maine, makes a great amateur sleuth, especially when she’s teamed up with her cat, Shadow—oh, and her romantically challenged beau, Will Price, who happens to be the town constable. In Last Licks, Sunny and Will investigate a death that may or may not be a murder and may or may not be the work of an “angel of death” assigned to a health facility’s night shift.
It all starts when Sunny’s boss, Ollie Barnstable, breaks a leg and lands in a rehab facility called Bridgewater Hall. Ollie’s roommate is one Gardner Scatterwell, a wealthy womanizer with a superficial charm. Gardner is recovering, barely and without much personal effort, from a stroke, so it is no big surprise when one night he dies after another apparent stroke. He was even visited by Portia, the lovely calico therapy cat who is labeled a “jinx” because the people she chooses to visit have an alarming habit of dying.
But Ollie has some strange memories of the night Gardner died: memories of someone in the room, possibly giving the unfortunate Scatterwell a poisonous drink. It was murder! Ollie insists, and he also insists on a side investigation, to be conducted by Sunny and Will. Now the pair, with some help from Sunny’s father and some accidental help from Shadow, must question every suspect on their list and scour Bridgewater’s records to determine whether Gardner’s death and the recent spike in deaths at Bridgewater can be chalked up to coincidence and bad luck—or if these deaths are the work of a serial killer lurking among the Bridgewater staff.
The plot and writing in Last Licks grabbed us right away and kept us reading, but by far our favorite part of this book was Shadow and the descriptions of how he sees the world. Shadow develops an utterly catlike fascination—wait, make that obsession—with Portia’s intoxicating scent. He just cannot get enough of this mysterious She, and he must have more of it. Not even the miles between him and this She will stop him (you’ve got to admire such persistence in a cat—persistence that leads him, eventually, straight to the culprit Sunny is seeking). To Shadow, dogs are “Biscuit Eaters,” an elevator is a scary room that moves, and a closed window is a problem to be solved. We suspect Claire Donally has spent considerable time pretending to be a cat. We picture her napping in sun puddles and playing paw hockey with a scrunched-up piece of paper. More humans should live like this.
I give this captivating mystery in the Sunny & Shadow series