Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines
A Sassy Cat Mystery #2
By Jennifer J. Chow
Author’s website: jenniferjchow.com
Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie
When a local teacher is found dead, LA’s newest pet groomer Mimi Lee finds herself in a pawful predicament—with her younger sister’s livelihood on the line.
Mimi Lee is on top of the world. She has a thriving pet grooming business, the sweetest boyfriend, and a talking cat to boot. When she arrives at the elementary school where her sister Alice works, she’s expecting a fun girls’ night out—but instead finds a teacher slumped over in her car, dead.
Alice was the last one to see Helen Reed, which instantly marks her as the prime suspect. Unable to sit quietly and let the authorities walk all over her sister, Mimi starts snooping and talks to Helen’s closest contacts, including one jumpy principal, a two-faced fiancé, and three sketchy teachers. With the help of her sassy but savvy cat, Marshmallow, and a cute kitten named Nimbus, the clock’s ticking for Mimi to get to the bottom of yet another case before her sister gets schooled.
I enjoyed this lighthearted cozy mystery, second in the Sassy Cat Mystery series. The fascinating mystery had me stymied, the characters are well-defined, and I appreciated how close-knit Mimi and her family is. The cats are not the typical pets one would find on the street or at the local shelter. There is sufficient backstory on Mimi’s family and her cat, Marshmallow, to allow for reading this as a standalone. Be prepared, though, as you might want to read the first one!
Mimi and her cat, Marshmallow, live in an apartment in the Los Angeles area near her parents’ home. She is very close to her younger sister, Alice, a kindergarten teacher. Mimi owns Hollywoof, a pet grooming salon where we see clients who want anything from a conditioner-only bath to a blueberry facial to non-toxic dye changing the color of a pet. She loves what she does, even if some of the requests are unusual.
As is her cat, Marshmallow, who came from a rescue shelter. She had the kitty only a short time before she realized he seemed to understand what she said – and the cat communicated back with her! Marshmallow could be a great secret agent as who would guess a cat could communicate with a human?
One day Mimi met Alice at her school so the sisters could get together. Mimi met Principal Lewis, an older man who liked to greet everyone with a hug, while awaiting Alice. When the sisters walked through the parking lot minutes later, Mimi thought she saw gray fluff go by a car. She didn’t locate the source of the fluff but noticed that someone was inside the car with their head hanging at an odd angle. Helen, one of the teachers who Alice had tried to befriend, was dead inside her car, and the EMT’s could not bring her back.
The next morning, Detective Brown was at Alice’s door with questions. Mimi got there as quickly as she could, since he had caused her much grief a few months ago when she was a murder suspect. He wouldn’t commit to whether the police considered Helen’s death suspicious, only that he has to ask questions should the autopsy show anything unusual. Unfortunately for Alice, the results did show something unusual, and from the questions he asked around the school, she had motive and access to the means.
Before Principal Lewis sent Alice home on leave, she sent an emergency pet request to Mimi. She hurried to the school to find that Alice had an adorable, but matted and bedraggled gray kitten who needed a home. It had been a stray around the schoolyard that Helen had been feeding. Mimi took the kitten home, cleaned her up, and named her Nimbus, after the clouds she resembled. Nimbus has quite a surprise for Mimi and Marshmallow.
Detective Brown strongly suggested that Mimi stay out of the investigation, but when it comes to her younger sister, she will do whatever is necessary to protect Alice. Where Mimi goes, Marshmallow has to go unless it interrupts his napping or mealtime, and the pair make a good, if interesting, team.
The characters are well defined; it was interesting to learn about Mimi’s mother’s background and how her parents had met, as well as some of the different customs and foods of Malaysia. Detective Brown shows a side of himself that few people see, or at least few suspects would see, and I was happy with a decision he made by the end of the story. Josh, Mimi’s boyfriend and an attorney, is originally from Hawaii. He, and other characters are defined as needed for their roles.
Overall, this was a fun and surprising read. I enjoyed the pets and the pet grooming escapades. I’m not sure that I connected with any of the characters other than Mimi, Alice, and Marshmallow. While the premise of communicating with cats is not uncommon in cozy mysteries, this time there is a twist for Marshmallow’s talent. It will be interesting to see how Mimi might one day tell her family or Josh about it! The means of murder and the mystery held my attention throughout, especially as Mimi tries to track down the source of the cause of death. I was surprised to find out the motive and the identity of the killer and appreciate how Mimi put it all together. I highly recommend this cozy mystery!