By Leann Sweeney

Obsidian, 2012 ($7.99)

ISBN-13: 978-0-451-23647-0

Reviewed by Shirley Wetzel

Jillian Hart returns to her hometown of Mercy, South Carolina from a quilt-selling trip, worried that she hasn't been able to reach her friend Tom Stewart. Her step-daughter, who works for Tom's security firm, hasn't heard from him either. Jillian goes to Tom's house to find his car gone and his abrasive half-brother in residence. Tom's elderly, diabetic cat is nowhere to be found. Something is very wrong with that picture.

A friend tells Jillian Tom was seen speeding out of town a few days before, with a stranger in the passenger seat. She tells her best friend, Deputy Candace Carson, and Candace and her partner pay a visit to Tom's brother. They, like Jillian, think Bob Cochran is untrustworthy, his behavior suspicious, but they can't find anything to charge him with.

Tom finally turns up, battered and bruised, with a wild story of being abducted by his ex-wife's husband, a former cop who was once Tom's partner. Nolan Roth accused Tom of playing a role in his stepson Finn's disappearance. This was not true, but when the boy does turn up, suffering from a head wound and memory loss, Tom and Jillian take him in and take care of him. This brings Tom's ex, Hilary, onto the scene, spitting fire and brimstone. Jillian was totally unaware of Tom's marital history, but he fills her in and smooths things over with her.

When Tom's car is found, wrecked and containing a corpse, both he and Finn come under suspicion. In a refreshing change from standard stories of this kind, Jillian doesn't try to solve the crime on her own, but works with the police, who behave professionally and competently. Her three cats and Finn's little rat terrier add charm, comic relief, and some assistance in nabbing the bad guy.

This is the fourth in the Cats in Trouble series. It is fun, with engaging characters one cares about, a tight, well-thought out plot, and just the right amount of cat lore. Ms. Sweeney, who also writes the Yellow Rose mysteries, has another winner.

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