Miss Cuddlywumps reviews Caught Dead-Handed, the new Witch City Mystery by Carol J. Perry
What does happen when you trip over a big yellow striped cat? Well, if you happen to be a redhead named Lee Barrett and you happen to be in Salem, Massachusetts, trying to get a job and you happen to have just discovered a dead body, quite a lot happens, and it involves psychics, witches, and crystal balls, along with visions, secrets, and murder—all ingredients in Carol J. Perry’s engaging new book, Caught Dead-Handed.
It all starts when an unemployed young widow named Lee Barrett comes home to Salem in pursuit of a job as a reporter at the local cable channel, WICH-TV. But things take a turn for the weird when she arrives at the station only to learn the job has been filled and then discovers a body floating in the water near the seawall. The body is that of Ariel Constellation, WICH-TV’s late-night movie host and call-in psychic who had walked out in the middle of a show and never returned. Moments after Lee finds the body, she trips over the yellow cat that, as it turns out, has a close connection to Ariel.
In very short order, Lee has Ariel’s cat and her job as, using the name Crystal Moon, she takes over hosting duties on the late-night show Nightshades. But when she sees an actual murder scene in Ariel’s black crystal ball, Lee has to wonder if she might have some real psychic abilities. Meanwhile, as Lee gets involved in the investigation into two murders, she receives a warning from a tarot card reader: There is a man who is her secret enemy, and he could be dangerous. Oh, and she will be unemployed again within a month.
There are so many things we loved about Caught Dead-Handed, it is hard to know where to start. Each of the characters is drawn with just enough detail to bring them to life—from Lee to her new co-workers and their idiosyncrasies, to her aunt Ibby who organizes her personal library by the Dewey decimal system, to O’Ryan the yellow cat who may have been Ariel’s “familiar,” and to Ariel herself, whose spirit seems to float through much of the story. She of Little Talent especially enjoyed the behind-the-scenes look into the workings the Nightshades show. It took her back to the 1970s and Creature Feature (hosted by Count Gore De Vol), the Saturday-night scary-movie show old SoLT adored in her obviously misspent youth.
Perry’s pacing is excellent and kept us turning pages long after we’d intended to stop reading for the evening. We did figure out the “who” part of this whodunit a while before the killer was revealed, but still the climactic scene had us racing through the words to find out how things turned out for Lee and Aunt Ibby, and of course O’Ryan.
Looking forward to the next book in the Witch City series,