Crime and Catnip
Nick and Nora Mysteries, Book #3
By T.C. LoTempio
Author Website: tclotempio.com
Nick and Nora aren’t just pussyfooting around this time as they deal with a missing person’s case and murder.
While catering a gala for the Cruz Museum, Nora Charles agrees to look into the disappearance of director Violet Crenshaw’s niece, a case previously undertaken by her frisky feline friend Nick’s former owner, a private eye whose whereabouts are also currently unknown.
As Nora and her curious cat Nick pull at the string of clues, they begin to unravel a twisted tale of coded messages, theft, false identities, murder, and international espionage. Nora dares to hope that the labyrinth of leads will not only help them locate the missing young woman, but also solve the disappearance of the detective. That’s if Nora can stay alive long enough to find him…(Goodreads)
Oh, I’m in love again. My hubby has no reason for concern, though, as I am in love with Nick, a gorgeous black and white tuxedo cat. That was how I felt after reading the first novel in the series and still do. Nora Charles may be an excellent protagonist in the style of the fictional Nora Charles from The Thin Man, yet Nick is the one who helps her understand the clues she finds. Their only frustration? Although he understands it very well, Nick can’t speak people-ese, so Nora doesn’t always ‘get it’. Toni LoTempio has again, however, delivered a mystery that would make Dashiell Hammett proud – do NOT miss this!
Nora has a huge, last-minute catering job at at the Cruz Museum. Her mother had been friends with the museum curator, Nandalea, and director, Violet. Violet knows of Nora’s reputation as a sleuth and investigative reporter and asks Nora to inquire about her missing niece who she lost track of some time ago. Violet had used Nick Atkins, the PI who had owned Nora’s cat, Nick, who disappeared not long after Violet’s niece, the only family member she has left.
Nora steps into a tangled web of international intrigue that seemingly centers around an antiquity for which an attempted theft was made while recently being held in London. The gemstones on the cover of the grimoire, an ancient book of spells, are attached to the blackest of spells inside. Nora’s bestie, Chantal, is familiar with the grimoire by reputation; as a psychic, she stays current on paranormal-related news. A young woman may have been involved in the theft or news coverage, possibly Violet’s niece Alexa, who has not been seen since then. Nick – the PI – sent a cryptic postcard to his former partner, Ollie, that makes no sense.
Nora delighted in preparation of the gala’s menu, designing dishes named after people from the days of King Arthur. Nora’s gentleman friend, Daniel, an FBI agent, and Lee, an old friend from college now in law enforcement, are providing extra undercover security at the gala. The web begins to tighten around Nora after an attempt was made on her life at the medieval-themed museum gala. Nick tries his best to slip around on little cat feet, but there is no guarantee that even this protective little puss can save his mistress from the bad guys.
This series is a blast! This is the 3rd Nick and Nora mystery, each one better than the last. I am not familiar (yet) with The Thin Man novels and movies and can still enjoy the series, so knowing the original Nick and Nora Charles is not necessary. While each one book can be read as a standalone, reading the first ones (or listening to the Audible recordings) might help to better know some of the background.
The characters are delightful and so well defined they could step off of the pages and into the nearest family-owned specialty sandwich shop, or give us opportunity to rub Nick’s tummy (the cat, not his former owner), or watch him try to share his Scrabble tile clues. He is very protective and seemingly appears from nowhere just in the nick (no pun intended) of time. We learn more about Chantal in each tale. Those in this mystery only are defined as necessary for their roles.
Crime and Catnip is an intriguing and at times, funny mystery! It is well planned and finely executed. There were a couple small “gimmes” that I could figure out, but the mysteries are challenging to solve. There are so many good suspects. The layers of mysteries are enjoyable – one from the first in series that is ongoing, and the current ones. Following Nora’s train of thought is interesting; she is so clever! Following Nick’s ‘thoughts’ ‘is even more interesting – a Scrabble tile here, a ‘meower’ there. Daniel tries to be Nora’s knight, and has competition from Lee, yet Nick is still the one who intuits the best. Perhaps because he knows the woman he loves with all of his kitty heart, is a mere mortal with only one life. I was surprised with who the bad guys were, “guessing” at one as Nora figured it out. The solutions are complicated, and all but one of the mysteries were cleared up at the end. The conclusion was satisfying, even if I was sad to turn the first page! I highly recommend Crime and Catnip; it is an excellent example of noir combined with modern intrigue by an author who delights in a well-written mystery and the care and feeding of our four-footed besties.