It was with great delight that we dipped in to the latest installment of the Black Cat Bookshop mystery series by Ali Brandon. This fifth book in the series is called Plot Boiler, and in it bookshop owner Darla Pettistone and feline friend Hamlet are at their best as they delve into another Brooklyn mystery.
This time, the Fourth of July is coming up fast, and Darla and other business owners are putting together a neighborhood block party. The idea is to bring in new customers, and it looks like it might work, provided they can get the nasty old George King, owner of Perky’s Coffee Shop and the self-proclaimed “King of Coffee,” to go along and play nice with everyone—and to pay his share of the costs. It’s just a good thing George has Livvy, his wife, to provide some actual perkiness to their shop and smooth over his rough spots for everybody else.
As Darla and Hammy (that would be the aforementioned Hamlet, who I should mention is a slightly oversized black cat who became an Internet sensation in his Karate Kitty video) make the rounds of the party, things seem to be going off without a hitch. Even the somewhat questionable band is a hit. Seriously, this is a party we would like to be at, and purrsonally I don’t even care much for parties.
But of course something goes wrong (or what would be the point of writing about it?), and that something is a dead body, belonging to the previously perky Livvy. Thus begins the mystery, which is to discover how Livvy died (accident, illness, murder?) and who killed her (because you know it has to be murder, right?). Could it be a simple case of jealousy, of love gone wrong, or might it have something to do with Livvy’s “special” Kona Blue Party coffee (emphasis on “party”—or not)? And when a second body is discovered, a whole new set of possibilities arises. Could it have been a murder-suicide? Or might there be a serial killer stalking their neighborhood?
In any case, it’s not great for business. Might not be so great for Darla either (and I am talking here about her continued existence on this earth), if her personal snooping gets her a little too close to the truth.
As we read Plot Boiler, we felt like we were walking through this Brooklyn neighborhood, encountering the characters and feeling our own way through the mystery. The Black Cat Bookshop series is peopled with a cast of characters who seem to just step off the page. There’s the ever-proper store manager, James, and Darla’s best friend and handy private investigator, Jacqueline (“Jake”). And of course Detective Fiorello Reese, who is… What? Friend? Love interest? This is its own little mystery, though Reese’s new fiancée may be about to solve it. Or not.
Ali Brandon’s writing is, as always, a joy to get lost in, and once again, the plot is nicely crafted and unfolds perfectly. And boy, would we like to meet Hamlet! I should also mention that the kindle version of the book has a very nice design, with chapter openings that took a little more thought than many we’ve seen. That little touch adds even more to the enjoyment of reading this book.
If you happen to need a little Fourth of July heat as we head into December, Plot Boiler could be just the thing. Highly recommended!