Claws for Alarm
Nick and Nora Mysteries #2
By T.C. LoTempio
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
“The purrfect sleuthy duo”* is back, and this time murder hits close to home for Nora Charles and her partner Nick, a stealthy little feline gumshoe groomed to solve a shocking crime.
Since inheriting her mother’s sandwich shop, Nora Charles is more about hot grilled paninis than cold-blooded murder—until her sister Lacey is arrested. The victim, an esteemed art collector and Lacey’s bullying professor, was stabbed in the heart. Apparently, all over a lousy grade.
Off campus, things were just as dicey. The prof had an ex with secrets, a trophy wife set to inherit a fortune in masterworks, and a scorned student mistress. Going undercover, Nora realizes that investigating this crime is the biggest test of her sleuthing career. Because if she fails, even Nick’s animal instinct won’t be enough to rescue Lacey from a perfectly executed framing. (from Goodreads)
When I listened to the first book in this series, ‘Meow if it’s Murder, my first reaction was that I was in love again…with Nick! After reading ‘Claws for Alarm’, I am sure it wasn’t merely infatuation…I adore this little hero, Nick (just please don’t tell my fur babies)! Nick and the woman he adopted, Nora Charles, are back – and they just couldn’t get any better than this!
Nora had been at the top of her field as an investigative reporter in Chicago when her mother passed away and left Nora her sandwich shop, Hot Bread, in Cruz, California. Nora honored her mother’s wishes and, even though she missed her former profession, she loved carrying on her mother’s tradition of quality and creativity in the shop. Could she help it if somehow she got dragged into mysteries – including the disappearance of Nick’s former owner, PI Nick Atkins?
Nick Atkins, partner in a PI firm with Oliver “Ollie” Sampson, was the mystery carried over from the first book in the series – where did he go? Nora’s spare hours were again filled with research when she saw Nick (the cat, formerly named Sherlock) with a page he had torn from the last journal of his former owner before his disappearance. Was Nick bringing her another clue from one of his open cases? Nora’s friend, FBI agent Daniel, tried to discourage her from following up but investigative reporting was in her blood…and the publisher of the local online true crime magazine, ‘Noir’, hoped for another of her fine true stories.
Unfortunately, an emergency came to Nora out of left field – her sister, Lacey was in jail – for murder? Sure, she had threatened to kill her uber-wealthy art professor in fit of anger when learning what her grade would be. Lacey just was not the kind of young woman who would follow through on it, but the police wanted the case closed and believed they had the right person. At least until Nora and Nick came on the scene.
Nick (so named by Nora due to ‘The Thin Man’ movies that she and her mother loved), of course is the star! He seemed to listen to Nora as if he understood her as she talked herself through mysteries. Not only is he the most talkative cat imaginable, he gives Nora necessary clues through one-word Scrabble tiles. Nora, her best friend Chantal (and a designer and a psychic), Ollie Sampson, the former partner of Nick Atkins, and potential gentleman friend Daniel Corleone are fun characters with depth and the ability to be serious when the occasion called for it. They are loyal, an invaluable trait. Even though Nora and Lacey had been distant for quite some time, Nora wanted to help free her from the charges, and her friends were willing to help her with the case as much as possible. Lacey added realism to their relationship when she was willing to air her resentments against Nora, who responded with surprise and sadness. To me, these scenes were pricelessly ‘real’, particularly as a younger sister in the shadow of the older sister. One thing I really enjoy about Nora is that I can be an armchair sleuth, living vicariously through her spunk and intelligence.
The story was excellently plotted and executed; at the end of the story, the only open mystery is still that of….what happened to PI Nick Atkins? The setting was both in Cruz and St. Leo, California, with enough description for one to feel part of each town without overshadowing the action. And there was action! Nick continues in his starring role, especially as action was required when Nora went out to look for answers and needed a helping paw. The suspense built, particularly as the secrets, family members, and disgruntled students stacked up. It seemed everyone hated this prof and few were sorry he was dead. I tried to figure out who the bad guy / gal could be, and finally I simply went with the flow and watched instead of trying to be Nora Jr.
This second in the ‘Nick and Nora Mystery Series’ is a worthy read, even better than the first! I highly recommend this to all who enjoy well-written cozy mysteries that are difficult to solve with a brilliant female sleuth who really could be a PI if she wanted to – as if straight from film noir days, and Nick, her partner in investigating. Absolutely five paws and a tail up for this tale!