Death Steals the Spotlight

Urban Tails Pet Shop Mysteries #3

By T.C. LoTempio

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra                   


 It’s exit stage left, permanently, for a big-time director who lands the starring role in an unscripted death scene . . .

Desperate to find a director for their annual production, the Fox Hollow Players have a stroke of luck when Shell McMillan’s actress mother lands a prominent theater director for the job. He’s more gruff and demanding than the small-town cast and crew are used to, but his soft side for animals quickly endears him to pet shop owner Shell. Persuading her to let him use a shed on her property where he can work in peace, Shell is horrified when she finds his dead body there. And with obvious signs of foul play, she can’t help but investigate the murder.

As she digs into the man’s past, it becomes apparent that at one point or another he was romantically entangled with just about every woman involved in the play. And just when Shell discovers he may have been blackmailing one of them, other clues surface that suggest a more sinister motive. With her hands already full with a beautiful stray cat she found and christened Princess Fuzzypants, Shell will have to fill two roles, caring for the Maine coon and trying to track down the killer before it’s her turn for a fatal curtain call . . . (Goodreads)


The third book in the Urban Tails Pet Shop Mysteries, Death Steals the Spotlight by T.C. LoTempio is an enjoyable continuation of the series in which the reader is immersed in the lives of the residents of Fox Hollow, specifically Shell McMillan. I must admit – I could not put this book down. In my opinion, the best of the series so far.

As this is the third book in the series, one is starting to get to know the characters a bit. And if this is the first book in the series you are picking up, never fear as the author has done an excellent job of weaving in pertinent information about each of the characters, so one can start the series with this book… and then go back to the others for added enjoyment.

As Shell (short for Crishell) settles into running the Urban Tails, the pet shop she inherited from her late Aunt Tillie, she is hearing a lot of gossip about who the director will be for the Fox Hollow Players’ fall production. Her mother has gotten Steven Spielberg or was it Scorsese … okay – that is just gossip and not at all true. But a new director has been hired now that the local English lit high school teacher is unavailable – a one ‘Raymond Terrill’ has agreed to direct the production of Our Town. Mr. Terrill has a reputation in Hollywood of being difficult to work with but as they say – the show must go on. Rehearsals resume (after all – show time is only a couple of weeks away) and Raymond is living up to his reputation and more. He does however take a shine to the cat Shell and her cat Purrday found in the back of the pet store – who has for the time being been named Princess Fuzzypants. The cat is a Maine coon with striking red hair.

Due to wanting some privacy, Raymond Terrill ends up using Shell’s shed as a workspace after rehearsals. Unfortunately, this is the location where Mr. Terrill turns up dead!  Of course, right in Shell’s backyard. So with a murder happening on her property, she feels justified in pursuing her sleuthing.

While Shell navigates the myriad of potential suspects, the unthinkable happens. Shell’s boyfriend, Josh Bloodgood, a homicide detective who is working overtime to find the killer. Or at least he was until the prime suspect turns out to be a cousin, Taylor Tyson, who is also an actor in the play. Now Josh is off the case.

I enjoyed the way that the many potential suspects were very much involved with the play and the whole Hollywood scene. The journey through all the suspects and how Shell eliminated each while trying to solve the mystery was intriguing. Now if she had only been able to solve the mystery before a second person was murdered. At least she figured it out before she herself came to any harm!  

An added bonus to the storytelling was when Shell’s mother stepped in as director when Mr. Terrill dies as she has attitude in spades! She runs a tight ship and we get a good sense of why she and Shell have a fractious relationship. It will be interesting to see where their relationship goes in subsequent books in the series.

The secondary characters, being the cats, were an added bonus to an already delightful story. Purrday – a pedigreed Persian, Kahlua – a seal point Siamese and Princess Fuzzypants – a Maine Coon with beautiful red hair. Loved the fact that Purrday took a shine to “his” rescue – Princess Fuzzypants and this made Kahlua a tad bit annoyed. Even pets can get jealous!

I would also like to point out that the cover art is SO cute, with Princess Fuzzypants and Purrday just hanging out on a bench, enjoying each other’s company. That alone caught my eye and had me wanting to read this book. And yes – I am a cat lover. If you like cozy mysteries, with likable characters, a twisted plot which keeps you thinking and guessing until the end, then this third book in the Urban Tails Pet Shop Mystery series is for you. Pick up Death Steals the Spotlight – you will be glad that you did!!!