For this week’s book review, we enter the surprisingly dangerous world of librarian Minnie Hamilton in Pouncing on Murder, the latest Bookmobile Cat Mystery by Laurie Cass. The “height-efficient” (i.e., short) Minnie lives on a houseboat in the warmer months in Chilson, Michigan, and lives at her aunt’s boardinghouse when it turns cold. This sounds “pretty cool,” to quote She of Little Talent. In Chilson, Minnie is known as the assistant library director, the driver of the bookmobile, and the owner of a black-and-white tabby cat named Eddie.
Eddie is known for being the very popular and expressive bookmobile cat. He expresses himself by saying “Mrr” a lot. I mean a lot. As in, that’s all he ever says. But Eddie has such inflection, such enunciation… He may only say “Mrr,” but he’s got a hundred ways to say it. Sometimes he doesn’t even have to speak to get his meaning across—his look is enough. One of our favorite exchanges in this book was when Minnie tells someone to pretend that Eddie is a Magic 8 Ball: Ask him a question and then interpret his answering “Mrr.” The only thing we don’t understand about Eddie is why he sleeps so late in the morning. He is definitely not a working alarm cat.
But we should probably get to the plot now—not that we wouldn’t happily devote an entire review to Eddie.
Minnie’s sounds like an idyllic existence (houseboat, bookmobile, cat), but life is rarely so rosy for long. She also has a long-distance doctor boyfriend who’s allergic to cats and can’t seem to make time to come up and see her. Plus, she’s got this huge book fair project on her plate, with a big-name author set to be the main draw (I’ll just leave you to imagine all the catastrophes that can happen with that). And then there’s what happens to poor Henry Gill, a great old curmudgeon who nonetheless manages to be generally well liked.
See, what happens to him is, a tree falls on him in the woods. Doesn’t sound suspicious, does it? Sounds like a tragedy, not something that could turn into a big murder mystery. But…it turns out Henry was not alone when that tree fell, and it soon starts to look like someone set up the “accident.” (We’re not sure how effective this method of murder would be in real life, but whatever.)
Was someone after Henry over his land (a developer, perhaps?), or is it possible that Henry wasn’t the intended victim and that an old grudge against someone else is the motive for the crime? If that’s the case, it could be that the killer is poised to strike again.
Naturally, Minnie soon adds a murder investigation to her list of tasks. And that, of course, puts her and Eddie in grave danger. It’s great entertainment for the reader, though, with a final confrontation between Minnie and the murderer that is truly page-turning—and chilling in more ways than one.
Reading Laura Cass’s cozies feels like sharing a bottle of wine with an adventurous friend as she regales you with the story of her latest escapade. If you’re lucky, you might even get to sing a Monty Python song together when you get close to the bottom of the bottle. And let’s not forget the black-and-white cat who sits close by and says “Mrr” once in a while. The characters in these stories seem like old friends—or new mortal enemies, as the case may be—and it’s those characters that breathe life into the plots and subplots and even make a tree seem like a perfectly plausible murder weapon.
Very highly recommended!