Series: Cat Latimer #1
Published by Kensington on Aug. 30, 2016
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Source: the publisher
Also by this author: Guidebook to Murder, Mission to Murder, If the Shoe Kills, Dressed To Kill, Killer Run, Murder on Wheels, Tea Cups and Carnage, Hospitality and Homicide, Killer Party
Former English professor Cat Latimer is back in Colorado, hosting writers’ retreats in the big blue Victorian she’s inherited, much to her surprise, from none other than her carousing ex-husband! Now it’s an authors’ getaway—but Cat won’t let anyone get away with murder…
The bed-and-breakfast is open for business, and bestselling author Tom Cook is among its first guests. Cat doesn’t know why he came all the way from New York, but she’s glad to have him among the quirkier—and far less famous—attendees.
Cat’s high school sweetheart Seth, who’s fixing up the weathered home, brings on mixed emotions for Cat…some of them a little overpowering. But it’s her uncle, the local police chief, whom she’ll call for help when there’s a surprise ending for Tom Cook in his cozy guest room. Will a killer have the last word on the new life Cat has barely begun?
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Welcome to the world of Cat Latimer, a YA fantasy novelist unwillingly embroiled in murder. When a famous author is killed while Cat is hosting her very first writer’s retreat, Cat’s curiosity and her desire to protect her guests and her business lead her to start digging into the author’s past. And what she finds is disturbing.
Anyone familiar with Lynn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap series knows: You can always count on Lynn for a light but down-to-earth cozy mystery featuring realistic, engaging characters and a believable small-town atmosphere. A Story to Kill essentially blends two stories: the mystery itself, and Cat’s own past and present. Divorced from a philandering husband, she was shocked both by his death and his bequest to her: the house they had shared. But it’s the perfect place to start a writers’ retreat. And her friend Shauna is the perfect person to help her; Shauna’s cooking is incredible and she knows how to run a B&B. Too bad the necessary renovations mean Cat has to hire her first love, Seth, as a carpenter and handyman. Cat isn’t immune to Seth’s charms, nor to the fact that he still seems interested in her, but she’s wary of involvement after her disastrous marriage. The novel spends as much time on Cat’s personal life and emotions as on Tom Cook’s murder and the search for his killer. The balance of the two worked well for me, and sets up the relationships between the central, recurring characters—Cat, Shauna, Seth, and Cat’s Uncle Pete, the police chief—in a way that left me feeling I know them, while still leaving plenty of room for character development and new discoveries.
One of my pet peeves in classic and cozy mysteries is inaccurate or unbelievable depictions of police, or of the amateur detective’s relationship to them. That’s not a problem here, for the most part. Since the police chief is Cat’s uncle, and he’s a very likeable, down-to-earth guy, it’s natural for her to tell him things and even ask about the case, and for him to tell her what feels able to divulge. The only unbelievable part is that Pete doesn’t hand the case over to another investigator, given his niece’s potential involvement and the risk of conflict of interest. (In fact, the point is never even raised, but you can bet it would be in real life.) But I’ve lived in small towns, so it was easy for me to rationalize that a policeman who knows his niece well, and believes in her veracity, might prefer to protect her by keeping the investigation in local hands—i.e., his own.
One thing I was not expecting was the introduction of a secondary mystery which will clearly take more than one book to unfold. I’m not sure whether it is setting up the plot for the second book, or if this other mystery will remain a subplot throughout several mysteries, but I’m definitely intrigued and want to know more… just as I want to know where Cat and Seth’s relationship is going, and how the differences between Cat’s and Shauna’s views of Shauna’s role in the business, which are so far under the surface, will be resolved.
Cahoon made me care about these recurring characters, and about Tom Cook’s widow Linda as well. There is also a delightful pair of sisters, probably in their 60s, whose good-natured bickering and obvious love for each other made me smile. One of them offers a bit of comic relief without ever stepping over the line into caricature. And she entertained me with a solid mystery, a believable field of suspects, and a satisfying conclusion… even if I did manage to figure out the culprit before the big reveal. I’m definitely looking forward to my next venture into the killer world of writers’ retreats.
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- COYER Summer Vacation 2016
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016