A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Magical Cats in "A Midwinter’s Tail"

Miss Cuddlywumps reviews Sofie Kelly’s latest mystery, A Midwinter’s Tail

It’s always nice to start a brand-new year off with a great book, so I am delighted to have made A Midwinter’s Tail my first read of 2015. This book is a joy, and not just because it has two magical cats in it.

Kathleen Paulson is a transplanted librarian in Mayville Heights, Minnesota. She’s got a lot going for her: great job, good friends, handsome boyfriend, magical cats. She’s also putting together a fancy fundraiser to raise money to expand the library’s Reading Buddies program, which helps kids learn to love reading.

Everything looks terrific, which means something is about to go horribly wrong. Unfortunately, the horribly wrong thing happens right in the middle of the fundraiser, when a new arrival in town eats a chocolate candy and dies. Her last words, spoken to Kathleen, are “live” and “package.” Turns out the candy was laced with pistachio, to which the victim was allergic.

Tragic accident—or murder?

The dead woman is Dayna Chapman, ex-wife of resident Burtis Chapman. Dayna had just disappeared one day more than twenty years earlier, leaving her family behind. No one in town seems to know why she returned as suddenly as she left, and no one seems to know who would want her dead—or why.

That’s where Kathleen’s curiosity kicks in. It’s also where her two cats, Owen and Hercules, come in. Oh, and her handsome detective boyfriend, Marcus Gordon. But back to the cats.

Owen is a gray tabby who likes Aerosmith and his “Fred the Funky Chicken” toy. Owen can also disappear at will (a handy trick).

Hercules is a tuxedo cat who prefers Barry Manilow and his purple mouse toy. He can go through closed doors (also a handy trick—and can we talk about the name Hercules? Straight from the classical canon. I think I am in love!).

Aside from their magical abilities, we love how the cats act just like brothers. Owen has a tendency to “relocate” Hercules’ favorite toy—and Herc isn’t above getting even by pulling his own stunts.

Also, these cats are great at solving crime. They both have a talent for recognizing clues and pointing Kathleen in the right direction.

Just what direction is the right one is a question that kept us guessing. Suspects are set up and discarded (some quicker than others) as the plot becomes more complex and entanglements are revealed. The plotting is very well done, nicely paced, and Kelly’s writing is a pleasure to read. She has also added numerous elements of comic relief that keep the overall tone light. The climax, though, is far from light. It is an exciting scene that puts Kathleen and one of her cats in grave danger and that kept us turning pages to find out if they would be okay.

But the cats are the best part.

I give A Midwinter’s Tail a very enthusiastic

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