How to Catch a Cat
The Cats and Curios Mystery #6
By Rebecca Hale
Author’s Website: www.travelingwithbooks.com
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
A serial killer with a peculiar penchant for City Hall interns is on the loose in San Francisco, and it’s up to me—and my two cats, Rupert and Isabella—to put a stop to the spree. Unfortunately, worrying about my uncle Oscar’s failing health and assisting with the interim mayor’s America’s Cup regatta doesn’t leave me with much opportunity to chase down clues.
Could the key to apprehending the killer be found in San Francisco’s sailing history? The first European vessel to pass through the Golden Gate contained a familiar cast of human – and feline – passengers as well as an elusive killer who used a similar murder weapon. Will the past catch up to the present in time to crack the case? (From Goodreads)
How to Catch a Cat is an interesting and unique mystery! It is the 6th in the very popular Cats and Curios mystery series. This novel can be read as a stand alone, but might be more enjoyable if one has read at least one of the earlier books to follow the progression of some of the characters. The back cover description is written in first person as if the niece is writing it, yet the novel itself is not written in first person. The niece’s uncle’s name was mentioned frequently, but the niece’s was not. While I would rather refer to her by name, “the niece” is the best I can offer.
Someone has been murdering mayoral department interns. It is at least known who the someone is, but where she is now, how she is disguised, or even why she has focused on interns is part of the mystery. Her weapon of choice is an antique curved knitting needle with a knife hidden inside of it, as had been carried by women of the Barbary Coast in 1800’s San Francisco to protect themselves. A knife needle is left behind with each body, hence the nickname, the Knitting Needle Ninja.
The niece is “owned” by felines Isabella and Rupert, who were clearly the main characters of this series. The niece was working temporarily as the administrative assistant for the interim mayor of San Francisco, “Monty” Montgomery Carmichael. Part of the “deal” she cut to help Monty includes that she bring Isabella and Rupert with her every day. Beautiful fluffy white with orange ears and tails, any cat person would be captivated by them. Rupert is a cat after Garfield’s heart, dreaming of and trying to find fried chicken, donuts, and other delicacies. Wise and watchful Isabella helps the niece make decisions. Whether it is what to wear or who to hire as an intern for the interim mayor, Isabella has an opinion. And she is usually right!
The niece had inherited Oscar’s antique store after his presumed death. Nobody knows that Oscar is still alive, or at least somewhat alive, as his heart is failing, but he wants to get the Ninja behind bars while his weary heart still beats. And before anyone discovers that he is really alive. The antique store is across the street from Mayor Monty’s art studio, so the niece and Monty have been acquainted for several years.
Oscar knew it was necessary to research a similar event in history, with a similar cast of characters, to find the key to the Knitting Needle Ninja.. While the circumstances were different and the people – with similar names – had different roles, some of the actions were repeated through the centuries, with the common threads of the murder weapon, the uncle, the niece, and the cats. The reader is taken on board a Spanish ship in the 1770’s and sees how the voyage and the earlier murders occurred while being aware of the details of the murders in the present time.
In the meantime, for the first time ever, the races for the America’s Cup Regatta would be held in the beautiful San Francisco Bay area. Mayor Monty was thrilled, and convinced that if this went well, he could definitely be elected Mayor in the fall after filling in as interim Mayor.
Isabella and Rupert are the reigning felines; Isabella and Oscar appear to have the best understanding of the situations and solutions. The niece is almost in a supporting role to them, and while she is a strong, intelligent and valuable member of the sleuthing team, she doesn’t have as clear of a role independent of them. The rest of the characters with the exception of Captain Ayala are either eccentric folks that provide a modicum of comic relief, or those seeking economic gain. The Knitting Needle Ninja is crafty, sly and an overall creepy woman – and the true identity is a surprise held for the very end, completely a surprise to me.
The plot has been thoroughly planned and executed, leaving no open ends. I found the format of the book to be a bit challenging until I got used to how the scenes of the present day and historical days were laid out. As the tale continued, I did get into it more while seeking the Ninja both in present day and historical day. There continued to be twists throughout the story and I will admit that overall I enjoyed it, and the end was a complete surprise to me.
If you have read other books in this series, you won’t want to miss this one! Rebecca Hale shares her great sense of humor, allowing most characters to take few things seriously except for the Ninja. I recommend How to Catch a Cat to adults of any age who enjoy a cozy mystery with cats, a bit of history, lots of humor, and a mystery that keeps you guessing and brings a totally surprise ending. Older teens with similar interests might enjoy it, also.