A cat fancier in an island town delves into a murder that brings her own family secrets to light.
Maddie James, a cat lover through and through, has returned to her childhood home of Daybreak Island to open JJ’s House of Purrs, a cat cafe catering to other fans of felines. Even in the off-season, business is going well, which is a major relief to Maddie now that she has to pay the inflated prices of Dr. Drake, the island’s new veterinarian. Maddie’s even been catering to bestselling thriller author Jason Holt, though she doesn’t realize that for weeks she’s been so close to fame until her sister, Val, points him out. To be fair, Maddie’s preoccupied with other matters. One of the cafe’s visitors has claimed that Maddie’s longtime feline companion, JJ, is actually hers and not Maddie’s. Unsure what to do, Maddie enlists the help of her grandpa Leo, the island’s former chief of police, to try to set things right. She learns that the claimant’s name is Thea Coleman, but when she tries to learn more about Thea online, there’s nothing to be found. And that’s only the beginning. As readily as grandpa Leo helps Maddie with her problem, he seems to have issues of his own, though he’s reluctant to trust Maddie even when she can tell something’s wrong. Leo’s problems are connected to Leopard Man, one of the island’s resident characters who dresses in cat prints and speaks exclusively in Shakespearean quotations. In the wake of a sudden murder, Maddie has to figure out Leo’s link to Leopard Man in order to solve the crime and learn about her own family in the process.
In a subgenre in which dialogue and character development typically take a back seat to ailurophilia, Conte’s cat cafe series (Purrder She Wrote, 2018, etc.) is eminently readable and often immersive.