THE CAT, THE MILL AND THE MURDER
A Cats in Trouble Mystery (#5)
By Leann Sweeney
Obsidian, 2013 ($7.99)
Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel
Because Jillian Hart loves cats, she agrees to enter an abandoned textile mill to assist her friend Shawn in the rescue and relocation of a large colony of feral cats. Due to the presence of toxic materials in the mill, she prepares herself for the possibility of finding feline corpses in the sprawling old building. Nothing could have prepared her for what she does find — a very-much alive woman who has set up housekeeping in the mill.
The Loraine Stanley Textile Mill in rural Mercy, South Carolina, had once been part of a bustling industry, but the factories and the jobs have long since been sent overseas, leaving behind hundreds of fine old buildings like this one. The cat removal is one of the beginning steps to giving the old girl a new lease on life, and Jillian is happy to help. Dustin Gray, the young civil engineer who accompanies Jillian and Shawn, is there to determine how best the building might be renovated and reused. Finding Jeannie Sloan encamped in the building throws a crimp in their plans and sets Jillian off on the track of another mystery.
Jillian has a soft heart, and wants to bring security and peace to the bewildered woman, who has been living in the mill for ten years. She learns from her contacts in the Mercy Police Department, including her best friend, Candace, that Jeannie had worked in the mill, living in the village that housed its employees. The townspeople looked down on the mill workers in the bad old days, and when she disappeared, not long after her own daughter apparently ran away, no one looked too hard for her.
Things get more complicated when two murders come to light; one is an old one, the other very new, and both are connected in some way to the mill. Jillian plays a part in helping the police with their inquiries, with some assistance from a ghostly feline named Boots.
This is the fifth in the Cats in Trouble mystery series, and it is just as charming and entertaining as the previous volumes. Jillian is a likable protagonist who actually respects and assists the authorities, rather than blundering in and interfering. She has a fine cast of friends, most especially her three fur babies. She provides an informative and eye-opening look at the sad history of the treatment of the workers in the American textile industry, along with a well-plotted mystery and a satisfying denouement.
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