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THE CAT, THE QUILT AND THE CORPSE: Cats in Trouble mystery (first in series)


By Leann Sweeney

Signet, 2009 ($6.99)
ISBN-10: 0-451-22574-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-451-22574-0

Reviewed by Katherine Petersen

The sneezing of her cat, Chablis, alerts Jillian Hart something is amiss when she returns from an overnight business trip. Allergic to dandruff, Chablis' reaction can only mean one thing: someone has been in Jillian's house. The young widow confirms this when she finds a broken window and Syrah, her Abyssinian missing. Jillian berates herself for being a recluse after the death of her husband, John, 10 months ago. If she'd had a friend to watch the cats during her absence, this likely wouldn't have happened.

She calls the police, but most of the local cops consider cat-napping a low priority. Candace, a young detective, takes her seriously, promising to do all she can to help. Jillian starts detecting on her own, first visiting a local animal shelter run by a couple, Shawn and Allison. They tell her Flake Wilkerson kept asking for pure-bred cats. A visit to Wilkerson's house yields no results, but Jillian spots Syrah on her second trip. She also discovers Wilkerson's corpse and gets accused of killing him. For any more plot details, you'll just have to read this gem of a cozy mystery.

Leann Sweeney, author of the Yellow Rose mystery series, treats readers to the first installment in her new series. Jillian, a down-to-earth and easy-to-like character, makes quilts for cats, adores her own feline friends and makes friends easily once she starts the search for Syrah. She's also realistic and could easily be anyone's next-door neighbor. The way Sweeney has structured the story, we walk with Jillian through her investigation, meeting people and learning about the fictional Mercy, S.C. along with her. The town itself has as much character as Jillian or Candace, and as with any small town, everyone knows everyone else and gossiping is a favored occupation.

The story moves along at a steady pace with never a dull moment. Jillian has made friends easily including a junk collector and a security systems expert and his mother. Sweeney creates fabulous characters each with his or her own quirks. Smart and determined, Jillian doggedly pursues answers as much to find the killer as to remove suspicion from her new pals. A good story, well-developed and likeable characters and an already-feels-familiar small town environment will make this series and Mercy places readers will want to visit again and again. Reading a good cozy mystery like THE CAT, THE QUILT AND THE CORPSE is like hanging out with old friends.

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