After the head of the local animal shelter has trouble reaching the owner of a rescued cat, Isis, found wearing a diamond collar, Jillian Hart goes to the antebellum mansion in Woodcrest, South Carolina owned by Ritaestelle Longworth to seek out some answers, only to become embroiled in a strange family drama and a murder in The Cat, the Lady, and the Liar, the third book in the Cats in Trouble Mystery series by Leann Sweeney. Informed that Miss Longworth, a senior woman, is “indisposed,” Jillian manages to get an interview with Miss Longworth’s assistant, Evie Preston, by pretending to be a journalist interested in the mansion. But just as Evie begins pointing out that Google shows Jillian not to be a journalist, but rather a cat-lover who has gotten herself in the news lately, they hear a thud and race upstairs to find Ritaestelle lying on the floor. Having heard the mention of the name of Isis, she has ventured out of her bedroom, eager to learn news of her beloved cat. After receiving scathing looks from Ritaestelle’s family, Jillian races out of the house and back to Mercy, her home. But just as she thinks she is free from Woodcrest, Jillian spots lights in her rear view mirror and pulls over, to discover she is being stopped by the Woodcrest chief of police, Nancy Shelton, who “advises” Jillian to stay away from her city and her friend’s estate.
The next night, just as Jillian is getting into bed, her doorbell rings, and she comes to the door to find Ritaestelle in a bathrobe and hair rollers, saying she decided to drop by using that “wonderful little GPS device in my car” because she recognized Jillian the previous day as the woman she read about in the newspaper for helping so many cats. Asking to come in, Ritaestelle makes the claim of sabotage, that someone has been drugging her. Then, as Jillian goes to find Isis, she returns to find Ritaestelle gone. Searching outside, Jillian hears cries for help and finds the older woman at the lake cradling the one of Jillian’s cats and staring at the body of Evie in the water.
Candace, Jillian’s best friend, who is a police officer crazy about anything related to forensic science, shows up and immediately begins to investigate, beginning with the question of, “Why did you kill Evie?” After collecting all her evidence, Candace sends Ritaestelle to the hospital in an ambulance because of the woman’s injuries from her previous day’s fall. But then when the hospital is ready to release Ritaestelle, she refuses to go to her home because she does not trust the relatives who live there. After all, she is convinced someone, almost certainly from her home, has been drugging her. Thus, Jillian agrees to take her into her own home. With Jillian’s intuition solidly in favor of Ritaestelle’s innocence, Jillian and her “particular friend,” Tom, a private investigator, get involved in the case, and soon Ritaestelle hires Tom to get to the bottom of the whole situation. It seems that for a couple months, stolen items have been turning up in Ritaestelle’s possession without her understanding where they came from. This, plus allegations of other irregular behavior, complicates the entire situation.
This book continues a series that has stood out for its excellent quality. I love the depiction of the characters, both human and feline. The people stand out as round, strongly drawn individuals. Jillian clearly acts out of her strong compassion for other people and animals, drawn first to the situation out of her concern for a cat who has gotten lost from her home. But then Jillian continues to stay involved in the case because of her strong desire to help a woman she has never met yet with whom she feels an unknown connection. The other character I really love is Candace. This fiesty woman proves that women can be effective police officers, as she takes the lead during the murder investigation. I can well imagine that Sweeney had a lot of fun drawing the character of Candace as she wrote this book.
But besides the human characters, the feline characters in this book really come alive. It’s so clear that Sweeney knows and loves cats, for she draws them with real joy and love. In addition, each cat has its own personality. Isis in particular is a real diva and begins the book unable to play nicely with other cats. She also has a tendency to get into tight places and then get stuck. But as she spends more time with Merlot, Chablis, and Syrah, Isis learns to get along with others just a little bit more.
The quality of the mystery impressed me as well as the quality of the characters. The solution was creative, but it was the path to the solution that particularly seemed clever and enjoyable.
Vanessa Johansson performs the audio edition of this book. I think her voice is especially suited to reading this book, since the book is narrated by the character of Jillian, and Johansson has such a gentle, soothing voice, well-suited to the nature of the generous, kind Jillian.
I highly recommend The Cat, the Lady, and the Liar to readers of all sorts. Animal lovers will especially enjoy this, but the delight will not be limited to just animal lovers. I don’t tend to go for books where the cats solve the crimes, but the cats in this book behave just as real, fun cats that are there solely to delight and serve as triggers for the action without performing the action itself. themselves. The mystery is interesting, and the details clever. I give this book five stars!
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