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When school psychologist Skye Denison is called by her frantic former student Frannie Ryan to come to an emergency at the bowling alley run by Skye’s ex-boyfriend’s mother, a former Las Vegas dancer and all-around trouble maker, Skye doesn’t know what to expect. Certainly not a violent physical confrontation between a brain injured former doctor and a very judgmental cat judge, the result being Skye not-so-wisely inserting herself between them and receiving a blow to the head for her trouble. It turns out that Bunny Reid, intent on earning money for a singles cruise, managed to create an online dating site that inadvertently attracted cat lovers, so she uniquely decided to create a cat show/speed dating event at the bowling alley owned by her son. One of the judges, Alexis Hightower, manages to mean girl alienate so many at the event that it’s not a surprise that she is soon a victim of murder by cat toy. As the fiancé of the Scrumble River police chief as well as the police psychologist, Skye finds herself interviewing the numerous suspects who all had reasons to hate the very opinionated judge.
Author Denise Swanson has perfected the formula for her fifteen Skye Denison mysteries, blending light murder plots with the chaotic events of Skye’s life. Interspersed throughout each book are Skye’s duties as a school psychologist for Scrumble River’s elementary, junior high, and high schools, usually leading to resolutions that involve retraining parents and teachers as much as the students. The borderline criminal Doozier family can always be counted on to bring chaos to Skye’s life as well complicating the police chief’s attempt to retain control. The over-the-top Bunny Reid is tolerable in limited doses, and her appearance here is surprisingly brief, as is the actual cat show and speed dating event. That the latter events occur mostly off the page is somewhat a shame, as their fascinating uniqueness would have been incredibly entertaining to follow (I really do want to know how and why a cat would wear a toupee).
Instead, readers are given insight into Skye’s life as she plans her upcoming wedding, cares for her favorite cat Bingo, reins in her mother’s expectations of the lauded event, and meets and helps to interview the many suspects of the murder. It is refreshing that Skye displays excellent judgment at not placing herself in danger by running off on her own to investigate and instead keeps her police chief informed of her findings even as she rejects his main suspect as the culprit.
This is a very fun, fast read that reveals Swanson’s skills at creating a series that meets readers’ expectations while still surprising them with original twists. A new element introduced in this mystery is a resident ghost that seems to be intent on keeping Skye and her fiancé chaste until their wedding, exceedingly frustrating to them both. The usual aphorisms are still present (“You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard-boiled egg. And look how often an egg gets cracked."), but they blend a little more seamlessly in this novel and the humor is unforced and always fun. Overall, fans of this series will continue to be delighted that Swanson has not lost the freshness of these novels and new readers will have the pleasure of being introduced to a strong character who has grown more secure in her body and in the relationships with those she loves.
To enter to win a copy of Murder Of The Cat's Meow , simply email KRL at life@kingsriverlife[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Cat's”, or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 6, 2012. U.S. residents only.
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