on February 28, 2017
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Also in this series: A Story to Kill, Of Murder and Men
Cat Latimer’s Colorado bed-and-breakfast plays host to writers from all over. But murder is distinctly unwelcome . . .
To kick off a winter writing retreat, Cat and her handyman boyfriend, Seth, escort the aspiring authors to a nearby ski resort, hoping some fresh cold air will wake up their creative muses. But instead of hitting the slopes, they hit the bar—and before long, a tipsy romance novelist named Christina is keeping herself warm with a local ski bum who might have neglected to tell her about his upcoming wedding.
Next thing Cat knows, her uncle, the town sheriff, informs her that the young man’s been found dead in a hot tub—and Christina shows up crying and covered in blood. Now, between a murder mystery, the theft of a rare Hemingway edition, and the arrival of a black-clad stranger in snowy Aspen Hills, Cat’s afraid everything’s going downhill . . .
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
Character Guest Post
It’s all about the food…
Hi, I’m Shauna Marie Clodagh, and I’m the one that makes Warm Springs Writer’s Retreat work like a fine-tuned clock. I’m also Cat’s best friend.
We met in Los Angeles when she started visiting the gay bar where I bartended. No, I’m not outing the girl. She’s as straight as an arrow and is dating that hunk of a guy, Seth Howard. He’s a sweetheart and became a fast part of the Warm Springs team.
I enjoyed working there because I didn’t have to worry about being hit on. Cat came into the place because she liked the location. The girl’s a little naïve. But we had a lot of time to talk and when she got the word that her ex-husband had died and left her this amazing Victorian, I was ready for a change.
So here we are in Aspen Hills, Colorado. The town lives and dies around the college. Covington is a small private school full of privileged brats if you ask me. Although I didn’t go to college, so maybe it’s different when you get to extend your childhood for four more years and still drink at the local bar. I went right to work after graduation at a little restaurant in Ohio. That’s where I’m from. Then I followed a loser out to California. I stuck and the loser left. I liked the weather out there a lot more than Ohio, so I stayed on. Well, until last year.
Colorado’s nice, but this is my first winter. The good thing is we can ski right outside of town. The bad news is I hate driving on the roads when it ices up so I tend to stay at home when the weather takes a turn. And when I’m home, I bake. I’m always trying out new recipe to use during the retreats. Some of the treats I share with our neighbor, Mrs. Rice. She’s always looking for a new piece of gossip to share or hear.
I don’t think she really knows what to think about Cat, Seth and me. But I feed her, so she’s generous with the town gossip. Of course, she’s not the only source I have. Cat’s more of an introvert. She likes her people in small groups. I love the big party. And I talk to everyone. The library, the grocery store, I even know people at the hardware store. Seriously, Aspen Hills is a very welcoming town.
Come on by one morning for coffee and treats. I don’t know what I’ll have baking in the oven, but I can promise it will be yummy!
Lark’s note: I can attest to that. The descriptions of what Shauna serves up always make me drool. Figuratively, at least!
Lynn Cahoon’s second Cat Latimer mystery is a solid, satisfying entry in a series I’m rapidly moving into my “must-read” category. It’s a quick read with plenty of mystery threads, clues, and red herrings, and it held my interest throughout.
Another writers’ retreat is marred by murder, but this time, the victim isn’t one of Cat’s guests. However, Christina, a young woman attending the retreat who was seen kissing the murdered man, may have been the last person to have seen the victim alive. Worrisomely, Christina herself may have a stalker — and that person might have followed her to Aspen Hills.
There’s a lot more going on in the sleepy little town, too. A rare Hemingway book has been stolen from the college library, the dean is trying to back out of the college’s contract with Cat for the writers’ retreats, several strangers in town give off an ominous air, and Cat is still trying to come to terms with the fact that her ex-husband, now dead, may have been trying to protect her from his mysterious employers. Add in a new/old relationship that’s starting to heat up and more than one retreat guest acting a little oddly, and Cat’s got a lot to worry about.
Frankly, I don’t know why Cat isn’t writing mysteries instead of YA urban fantasy, because she’s pretty darn good at asking questions and putting two and two together. And by and large, she avoids TSTL Syndrome*, which is such a relief in a cozy series! I enjoyed the immediate mystery (or mysteries) of this book, but it’s Cat’s personal life, particularly the long-arc puzzle of what Michael was up to and whether his death was natural, that really keeps me coming back for more. I want to know what really happened as much as Cat does — and I want her to be able to move beyond it and get on with her relationship with her highschool sweetheart, Seth.
Actually, I also want to find out more about Cat’s friend and employee Shauna. I realized while reading Fatality by Firelight that we don’t know much about Shauna’s background, other than that she cooks like a dream, is loyal to Cat, and was working as a bartender before Cat offered her the job of cook/housekeeper for the writers’ retreats. If you notice, even in her guest post above, Shauna doesn’t say a whole lot about her past beyond the basics. Maybe Ms. Cahoon is holding her backstory in reserve for whenever the ex-husband Michael arc is wound up. Something to do with that “loser” Shauna mentioned, perhaps?
If you’ve read any of Lyn Cahoon’s Tourist Trap mysteries, you’ll find the Cat Latimer series a trifle more serious in tone, but still decidedly in the “cozy” subgenre. If you’ve never read Cahoon’s books, you can certainly read Fatality by Firelight as a standalone, but since we’re only two books into the series so far, why not start with A Story to Kill?
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*too stupid to live, a designation for those idiotic heroines who blithely go into dangerous situations without thinking. You know the type. In a horror movie, they’d be killed early on, but when they are the heroine of a cozy mystery series, they miraculously get away with it every single time — and they never learn. Thankfully, Cat is not like that. She may occasionally end up in a dangerous situation, but it’s not through being stupid!