I may have said this before, but I am going to say it again: Mystic Notch, New Hampshire, is one of my favorite places in the world. Sure, it’s fictional, and sure, people keep getting murdered there, but it has some exceptional cats, plus a really neat bookstore where the ghosts of Robert Frost and Franklin Pierce hang out—though the store’s owner seems to be the only person who can see them. That owner is Wilhelmina “Willa” Chance, a former crime reporter who inherited the bookstore and a cat named Pandora from her grandmother. Let’s just say that Willa had no idea what she was in for when she took over her grandmother’s business.
“Looking for the bathroom”
Probable Paws is the fifth installment in this series by Leighann Dobbs. In this volume, we meet Willa at the funeral of one Adelaide Hamilton, and Willa meets Adelaide, or at least her ghost. Ghosts don’t appear to Willa just to say hey; they always want something, and what Adelaide wants is for Willa to locate a book called Betty’s Recipes. The fact that she thinks one of her grieving relatives had a hand in her death is totally beside the point. The book must be found and passed on to Willa’s neighbor Elspeth, just as Willa’s grandmother had stipulated in her will—only the book couldn’t be found then, and it can’t be found now.
Of course, Willa pretty much has to identify the killer, because she is just that kind of person. So off she goes to the Hamilton family home, which smells “of lemon Pledge and old money” and has a family to match. She spends a fair amount of time “looking for the bathroom” in that house while actually looking for the recipe book.
You will have realized by this point that we’re not talking about a book of actual recipes here. The town is called Mystic Notch for a reason.
Few things are simple in Mystic Notch, at least for Willa. She has this sort-of boyfriend, Eddie Striker, who is also the sheriff in a neighboring county. Willa and Striker have more in common than they know, because Striker can see ghosts, too. But—and this is the not-simple part—he and Willa can’t see the same ghosts, and neither of them knows that the other sees ghosts at all. This difficulty makes for some interesting exchanges when they and their respective ghosts get together, especially after Striker is visited by the ghost of Adelaide’s long-dead husband, Louis. Louis wants Striker to find Betty’s Recipes so he can finally be reunited with Adelaide—because he and she can’t see each other, even though they are both spirits.
Like I said, not simple.
Anyway, the action in Probable Paws centers around Willa and Striker trying to locate this elusive supposed recipe book, which must not fall into the wrong (i.e., evil) hands. Only neither of them knows that the other is after the same thing they are, and neither of them knows that they’re being helped by a whole bunch of cats.
Which brings me to the very special cats of Mystic Notch. See, some of the town’s cats belong to an elite type sworn to help humans in the struggle of good against evil. Pandora is one of these special cats, though Willa doesn’t know it. Pandora struggles to communicate things with her human—never an easy task, I can tell you. I admit to being biased in favor of the cat characters: Pandora, of course; the male calico named Otis; the chimera cat named Hope… I personally wouldn’t want to meet the evil Fluffy, but he’s a great character.
Some cozy mystery series are entertaining, intriguing, funny, magical, enthralling, [insert positive adjective here]. I could say lots of things about Probable Paws, like Leighann Dobbs’s words just pull you in and carry you through every little twist in the plot. I could say all that, but there’s really only one thing I need to say.
I want to move to Mystic Notch.
A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!