Miss Cuddlywumps reviews the first Nick and Nora mystery by T. C. LoTempio
If you love cats and The Thin Man, then Meow If It’s Murder is just the book for you. It’s got all the usual cat-cozy ingredients—mystery, meddling amateur sleuth, brilliant feline—combined in a way that is just a delight to read. The story goes something like this:
One Lola Grainger, who was known to have an intense fear of water, has apparently drowned in a tragic yachting accident. At least that was the opinion reached in one of those open-and-shut cases that was shut a little too soon.
Fortunately for justice, one Nora Charles, a former crime reporter in Chicago, has just moved home to Cruz, California, to take over the family sandwich shop after her mother’s death. Nora is single, pushing forty, and though she insists she is highly practical-minded and not really a risk taker, she still has her reporter’s instinct for digging for the truth—even when the truth is dangerous. Good thing she has Nick, the dark, handsome stranger who saunters into her shop one day and proceeds to take over her life.
Nick, in case you’re wondering, is a stocky tuxedo cat who has certain talents. First, he is a great communicator, apparently able to understand and respond to whatever the people around him are talking about. (It’s so cute when humans are befuddled, as Nora is, by cats’ abilities.) Nick also has a thing for Scrabble tiles. He’s able to pull out a few pertinent letters to send Nora important messages, though it’s up to her to arrange them in the correct order—which she often fails to do. (Okay, even I am impressed by this ability—and by ability I mean Nick’s thing with the tiles, not Nora’s penchant for arranging them wrong.)
In trying to locate this confident cat’s owner, Nora discovers that said owner is a private detective looking into the Lola Grainger case on behalf of the deceased woman’s sister, Adrienne. Or perhaps I should say that the owner was a private detective: He’s been missing ever since he made a mysterious phone call to his partner saying he’d found a body he thought was Adrienne’s. It seems that Lola may not be the only deceased person in this case.
And so Nick and Nora are off on their first case, and it’s a good one, with one particularly nice twist that made us sit up and say, “Huh? You mean… What?” I love it when that happens. Nora calls on some of her old Chicago ties and soon finds herself in a very dangerous business, surrounded by people who may not be what they seem. I’ll say again, it’s a good thing she has Nick. Oh, and that bit about her not being a risk taker is a complete and total lie.
Meow If It’s Murder is a joy to read: well plotted, well written, and with touches of humor that are classic cozy (as when Nick makes a rude gesture at Nora for leaving him in the car). The story has enough complexity to keep a reader’s mind engaged, but it’s also clear enough that we were never befuddled. Thrown off balance in a delightful way, yes; confused, no. We just couldn’t find anything to complain about, and we look forward to the next adventure from Nick and Nora.
A very enthusiastic