In Escape Claws by Linda Reilly, Lara Caphart drives from Boston to Whisker Job, New Hampshire when she gets word that her Aunt Fran is having difficulties after having had to retire early from teaching due to serious knee problems. It has been 15 years since Lara has seen her aunt, a situation they discover was created by Lara’s father’s suppression of their letters to each other. Fran has become the community cat-lady, with 11 cats that she has rescued, and she has started to let things go. Lara works hard to get things fixed up in the house and help her aunt get back on her feet.
Then one night, Lara hears noises outside but eventually goes back to bed. The next morning, however, Lara goes to her aunt’s property line and stumbles over a rebar buried in the ground but bent all the way over when someone clearly tried to remove the rebar that marks the property line. The man who owns most of the local real estate has been trying to coerce Aunt Fran to sell him part of her property, which he needs in order to complete his major development. The project would evict his many local tenants, making Theo Barnes a decidedly unpopular man in town. So when Lara finds Theo at her feet when she trips over the rebar, there is no shortage of suspects in his murder.
I really loved listening to Escape Claws, which was full of life and pulled me into the story, keeping me raptly listening and not wanting to turn it off. The plot had creative elements to it, including numerous red herrings and twists and turns. It contains a slight paranormal element, with a cat named Blue whom Lara knew as a child and finds there again. But Aunt Fran tells her that no one else has ever seen Blue, and it becomes apparent that others can’t see the cat, who does a lot to help guide her in her detection.
I enjoyed the characters in this book, who have true human and feline flavor to them. I really appreciated the fact that Lara does not get involved in the mystery case out of a desire to snoop or be nosy. Instead, she is happy to leave the case to the police until reluctantly responding to pressure to look into the situation. Lara’s relationship with her Aunt Fran seems very realistic, with their ups and downs. But the cats in particular steal the scenes in the book. We don’t get to know personally all 11 of Fran’s cats, but we do get to know several of them, learning of their unique traits that make the cats a delight.
Callie Beaulieu ably performs the audio edition of the book. She does a great job of voicing the different characters. In particular, her acting of the denouement scene with the murderer was highly effective. The emotions drawn out in the scene come across dramatically and with power. The timing used in this performance adds to the strength of the audio version.
I had a good time listening to Escape Claws, with its fun setting and creative character development. I enjoyed the details of the book and the fun relationship between Lara and Aunt Fran, with all 11 (or does the mysterious Blue make 12?) cats. I give this book five stars!
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