Twice Told Tale
Black Cat Bookshop Mystery, Book #6
By Ali Brandon
Author Website: alibrandon.com
The New York Times bestselling author of Plot Boiler takes us back to Pettistone’s Fine Books, where Hamlet the cat isn’t the only shadowy figure lurking around the Brooklyn brownstone…
As Thanksgiving approaches, Darla Pettistone is preparing for the busiest shopping season of the year. They’ve recently launched their online store, where one anonymous bidder is offering a suspiciously high price for an antique book—and Darla doesn’t need Hamlet’s special senses to know that something isn’t quite right.
However, there’s no time to think about that after Darla’s roped into helping bridezilla Connie Capello get ready for her big day. After looking at wedding dresses, Darla and Connie head to an antique store to find her “something old”—but they find someone dead instead. When Darla learns that the shop carried a copy of the book that her mysterious bidder is after, she suspects she’ll need Hamlet’s help to discover who penned the poor soul’s final chapter, before someone else is read their last rites… (Goodreads)
Each time we see Darla, Hamlet and the gang, they continue to grow the store’s business and get busier…but never too busy for that nasty business of murder. The sixth in its series, Twice Told Tale can easily be read as a standalone. I love watching the characters change with each new novel, and Hamlet…well, he would probably say that cats are already perfect! I guess that’s why they need … so many lives.
Darla’s friend, Detective “Fee” Reese has asked her to help his Jersey Girl fiance with some of the girly stuff of getting ready for their wedding. Darla, her friend “Jake” (Jacqueline) a former police officer, now PI find themselves heading to a bridal salon to help Connie pick out that perfect gown. Between the drama of Connie thinking she had found a dead body in the dressing room (the culprit being a too-tight gown on a woman and she fainted) and the nasty words spoken to Connie by one of the shop owners, it was more than enough for one day. Since Connie needed to get ‘something old’, she and Darla were going to go to the antique shop next to the bookstore. The shop is owned by an older brother (Bernard) and sister (Mary Ann), the Plinski’s, both of whom had solid relationships with people at the bookstore.
Mary Ann had found and made contact with Hodge, a man she had dated in their high school days. Hodge was a widower and, much to the chagrin of Mr. P, they began dating again. There had been bad blood between the two men when in high school and their friendship – and Hodge and Mary Ann’s dating – was lost along the way.
When Connie and Darla went into the antique store as planned, Darla called out to Mr. P but he didn’t answer. Sadly there was a reason for that, which Connie soon discovered – Mr. P. was sitting in his chair at the cash register, dead. Mary Ann took the news stoically at first, but stayed with Jake that night and proceeded to make arrangements. It was determined that Mr. P was murdered rather than passing from natural causes. Based on evidence he isn’t sharing, Reese says that Mary Ann is a suspect. Jake and Darla know she couldn’t have done it; they wonder if, given Bernard’s hostility to Hodge, he could have done him in.
In the meantime, one of the collectible books that the store has begun to put on a web site to sell has suddenly shot up in value among the competitive sellers. A black cat that looks a lot like Hamlet has been seen on the block, and even made its way into the storeroom one day. There is also a man who smokes who has been seen more than once watching the buildings on Darla’s side of the street after closing time. Curiouser and curiouser!
The central characters are very well defined, three dimensional people who could simply come to life from the printed page. Darla and Hamlet remain my favorite characters, with Jake running a close second. Darla is open to new ideas from the staff when it comes to selling collectible books; she is continues to learn about the book business and is doing fantastic work. Hamlet is such a “ham” at times! It is easy to see that he loves the woman who feeds him and they are close companions. This is a very lovable black cat who gently enters the hearts of his readers. It has been interesting to watch James T. James, an employee hired by Darla’s great aunt years earlier, and Reese develop relationships with special ladies. Robert has found his niche for the present time as barista extraordinaire at the upstairs coffee bar. All have grown together into a family in the two years since Darla inherited the bookstore from her great aunt.
The plot includes more than one mystery, yet as Darla searches for clues, she wonders if at least two intertwine with each other. All the mysteries fit together as part of the whole, and I didn’t find any one mystery to overwhelm another. Hamlet leaves an interesting collection of books on the floor, as is his way when he wants to give his human a clue about the current situations. None of the books he has left have been clear enough to impress Darla with the right person to focus on as a suspect.
It was not easy to determine who the real bad guy(s) might be! My intuition simply didn’t pick up on the the right killer, or solve any of the other situations. I think Hamlet kept us purposely in the dark enough to see if we could intuit these things as he does! The suspense builds until almost unbelievable heights before the denouement; all situations are brought to a very satisfying conclusion. This is a delightful novel that shows the reader classic literature that one might not have read that includes some wry, some laugh-out-loud situations. I highly recommend it!