In The Cat, the Sneak, and the Secret by Leann Sweeney, Jillian is preparing for her wedding to Tom when Tom’s step-son from his first marriage, Finn, who works at the Mercy Animal Sanctuary, has fallen in love with a cat who keeps escaping from the shelter and bringing back loot. But this time the cat seems to be stuck under an ugly love seat in front of the donation box for a charity thrift shop. When they get her out, Jillian discovers that the cat is covered in blood and also has an antique locket wrapped around her paw, with blood on the locket as well. Upon arriving at the scene, Candace, Jillian’s best friend and police forensic specialist, finds that the blood is human. The locket contains a picture of a baby. Something bad has happened, but what?
Finn adopts the cat, whom they name Magpie for her kleptomaniac habits, and she joins Jillian’s three cats in her lakeside home, where Finn has moved into the basement. Jillian gets back to the job of dealing with wedding preparations with her step- daughter from her own first marriage, Kara, the owner of the local newspaper and the woman who has taken over the job of wedding planner. But then Kara gets a call that a body has been found in a construction site. They rush to the site and find that a body has been buried beneath soil and rebar, where the construction company is about to pour concrete.
The book goes through a series of dramatic episodes involving two middle aged women and their families. The whole community of Mercy gets affected, and we get to see many of the people we have met in previous books. The book contains genuine emotions that pull at your heart as you see the suffering and redemption of the people of Mercy. The mystery plot is intricate and full of details that blend together to create a solution. The cats play significant roles in the book and help to provide a resolution to the case.
One of the greatest strengths of this series is the way Sweeney draws the characters. Jillian, the main character, comes across as such a real, likable person. People open up to her in a way that would seem fake in most books, but Jillian has a nature of giving to those around her that makes it seem perfectly natural for people to share their lives with her.
This book also includes a 19-year-old woman named Lindsey who really seems like a genuine character. She has an outer shell formed by hurt that pushes away people, but we get glimpses of the real woman with a heart under the mask she holds up to the world. Lindsey is one of the best written characters in this book, as we can see her gradually peel back her shell as she begins to heal under the love and friendship with Jillian. The love of the cats adds to her inner healing.
It is also exciting for those of us who have followed this series to get to see Jillian finally marry Tom. She has traveled a long journey from being widowed six years earlier to getting healing and being able to open up her heart to love again.
Vanessa Johansson continues to do a fantastic job of narrating this audiobook. She has a voice that seems to fit Jillian really well. She just sounds so nice, which is how I picture Jillian as being.
I really loved The Cat, the Sneak, and the Secret. Its depth and use of characters is incredibly strong, making this book one of Sweeney’s best. I happily listened to the whole book as fast as I could because I was eager to learn what would happen, yet I was afraid to let it end and be over. I give this book five stars!
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