Miss Cuddlywumps reads the first book in the Whales and Tails mystery series
Caitlin Hart of Madrona Island, Washington, is five feet tall, impulsive, curious, and tends to insert herself into embarrassing situations (though not on purpose). Her best friend is a dog named Max (we do not hold this against her), and she helps take care of cats in a sanctuary. She even has plans to convert an old cannery into a “coffee bar/bookstore/gathering spot” called Coffee Cat Books, where people can gather, have a coffee, browse some books, and meet some adoptable cats. What a fabulous idea! Too bad about that thing with the body in the cannery.
The body, discovered by Caitlin and business partner Tara O’Brien, is that of the realtor who had been working with them on buying the property. Caitlin, impulsive and curious as she is, takes the fact that she and Tara found the body as a “sign from the universe that [they’re] supposed to be involved” in the ensuing investigation. Her suspicions turn to the local tensions over a proposed condo project that could change the tight-knit character of the island. The question becomes who on the island council—or running for the council—is for the project, who is against it, and would anyone from either camp be willing to kill to see their side prevail?
Or might this case be totally unconnected to the condo project? It’s a puzzlement.
Caitlin has some other things on her mind as well. First is her aunt Maggie who is running for a council seat but has been ill for a worryingly long time. Then there’s an old high school boyfriend who’s shown up out of the blue. And there’s this big gray cat, Romeo, who seems to have temporarily adopted her—though it looks to us like Romeo just needs a place to stay while he’s busy getting close to the neighbor’s prized white Persian, Juliet. When Juliet’s owner (also vying for one of those coveted council seats) disappears, Caitlin becomes convinced that there’s been another murder, and she’s pretty sure she knows whodunnit.
There’s a lot to like about Romeow and Juliet. Caitlin is just the sort of character we like to read about after a busy day. We imagine that knowing her would be a “real trip” (to use She of Little Talent’s phrase). She manages to get into just the right amount of trouble for a cozy. The setting of Madrona Island is another winner, as is the fact that Maggie is co-owner of a shop called the Bait and Stitch, where you can buy all your fishing and quilting supplies. The island also has two self-proclaimed witches, and who wouldn’t love that?
The plot does slow a bit in the middle, and the book’s climax is not as compelling as we’d hoped. Nevertheless, Romeow and Juliet is a lighthearted read that makes for a good weekend’s entertainment.