Sunday, September 11, 2011

Review of Sofie Kelly's Sleight of Paw

Title: Sleight of Paw (Magical Cats #2)
Author: Sofie Kelly
Publisher: Obsidian Mystery
Formats: Mass Market Paperback & Ebook
Source: Purchased
Publication Date: September 6, 2011
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
This is a lighthearted cozy featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Owen and Hercules, in small town Mayville, Minnesota. In this second installment of the series, Kathleen is determined to discover who killed Agatha Shepherd, a former school principal who loved children and helped several teens turn their lives around. When Agatha's body is discovered outside the local diner and Kathleen's friend Roma is arrested, Kathleen decides to investigate Agatha's murder.
I absolutely loved the first book in this series, Curiosity Thrilled the Cat, (see my review) so I was eagerly awaiting the release of this second book. While I enjoyed Sleight of Paw, it wasn't quite as good as the first.
This book is just as funny as the first, with several laugh out loud moments and zany supporting characters. Local artist Maggie is probably one of my favorites, since she's hysterically funny. The novel begins with Kathleen and Ruby helping Maggie stuff a "body" into Ruby's SUV so they can set up an exhibit Maggie put together on local sports for the town's Winterfest. It turns out that the body is actually a mannequin dressed to look like NHL star Eddie Sweeney. Apparently he's so lifelike that members of the small town believe that Ruby's dating the player on the side, which leads to some funny moments. Also, magical kitties Owen and Hercules make a few appearances to comedic effect as well, even if Fred the Funky Chicken (my favorite from the first novel) is not quite as prominent here. I like that in both this and the first novel the cats are important to Kathleen and help her investigation but are not the primary detectives.
While the writing is well done and the characters engaging, the mystery fell a little flat for me this time around for several reasons. The first is that I spotted the villain almost immediately. In fact, I was a bit stunned that he did turn out to be the villain, because it seemed so obvious. The second reason this cozy wasn’t quite as successful for me has to do with the protagonist, Kathleen. In the first novel, Kathleen was implicated in a murder, and she conducts her investigation in an attempt to clear her name. However, in Sleight of Paw, her reasons for looking into Agatha’s death are less personal. Detective Marcus Gordon warns her not to interfere several times, but Kathleen continues to investigate. At times it felt as if she were channeling Angela Lansbury in Murder, She Wrote, butting in where she really wasn’t needed, whereas her involvement in the murder investigation in the first book felt much more natural. And the denouement results from a TSTL moment when in spite of everything her friends tell her, Kathleen goes by herself to look for evidence against the villain. This bothered me a lot, because I really like her character, and she never struck me as being quite that dumb in the first book.
I was also a bit disappointed that the hint at an incipient romance between Kathleen and Detective Marcus Gordon didn’t develop in this book, although there are several scenes with the two that are certainly promising. Hopefully future books in the series will continue with the romance.
Despites its flaws, this is an engaging and irrepressible mystery that’s a lot of fun to read. I’m definitely looking forward to the third book in the series and hoping that we’ll see more of Marcus Gordon in it.

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