Murder of a Cranky Catnapper

A Scumble River Mystery, Book #19

By Denise Swanson

ISBN 9780451472120

Author Website:



With her morning sickness finally abated, Skye Denison-Boyd is ready to pounce on the pertinent problems she faces as Scumble River Elementary School’s psychologist. After trying almost every trick in the book to aid a handful of socially awkward fourth grade boys, Skye opts for the innovative approach of pet therapy with the assistance of the local vet, a Siberian husky, and a Maine coon cat.

Unfortunately, the first session only breeds disaster and draws the ire of cantankerous school board member Palmer Lynch. But Skye’s worry over the episode changes to dread after Lynch is found dead in his home with the therapy cat hidden in the garage. With a clowder of questions unleashed, Skye finds herself dealing with a killer who isn’t pussyfooting around…(Goodreads)



I loved it! The author has a wonderful imagination to have come up with the not only this crime, but plotted the resolution of it! Most people know that I enjoy many books with cats, but even the poor purloined puss in this story didn’t captivate me as much as the overall plot did.

Skye has settled into married life with the man of her dreams and is now carrying their first baby. Near the end of the school year, she received approval from the parents of several fourth-grade boys to try something new. A local vet who has two pets, a Maine Coon cat and Siberian Husky, that have been trained as therapy animals for those who have various emotional and social challenges. The very first day of the therapy, Skye had an unpleasant run-in with a stuffy board member, Palmer Lynch, who is running opposite Uncle Charlie for school board president.

While in the midst of preparing special reports that were required before school year-end, challenges were abundant. Someone broke into Dr. Quillen’s clinic and stole the therapy cat, Belle, so he had to cancel. Then one morning Dorothy, housekeeper for many in Scumble River (including Skye and her parents), called her before the start of school. Refusing to tell her why, she asked Skye to go to Palmer Lynch’s home without letting anyone at the school know. Upon arrival, Skye was met by the housekeeper and a dilemma: Dorothy found Mr. Lynch in a very compromising position, dead. Murdered.

The first suspect was Dr. Quillen, and Skye so wanted to clear him! Her very pregnant condition, however, kept her from actively pursuing a solution as anything other than a consultant to the police. What she and Wally, her husband, found as the investigation continued, however, could rock the community of Scumble River for quite some time to come.

Skye, Wally and May, Skye’s mother, are very well-defined. Others are as defined as fitting to their roles, including Uncle Charlie, the Doozier family, Dorothy, and various school staff and board members. Each person is so clearly described that they almost leap from the pages into real life. In this series, the characters definitely make the story, as do various situations. Watching the small-town dynamics in action, from the middle class to the ‘other side of the tracks’ folks can be hilarious all on their own without some of the situations that occur.

This is only the second Scumble River mystery I’ve read, having recently read the first in series. It is such an enchanting series that I will be reading the rest as time and availability allows; it can be read as a stand-alone.

This mystery is delightful from the start! I would love to hear how the author came up with this plot. While I enjoy a variety of cozy mystery styles, I do like one that can be hilarious at times, which this definitely is. One can see from the descriptions of the pets that the author is also a pet lover, knowledgeable about cats and dogs. Bingo and the therapy animals do not take over the story but enhance it, showing the value of pets for those with various social and emotional challenges. I enjoyed watching Wally and Skye interact with suspects together, and how he values her opinion. The plot twists changed the direction of the story more than once, and it was a challenge to try to determine who the real bad guy or gal might be or if the purloined puss was related to the murder at all. All the situations were resolved, and I found the end to be completely satisfying. I am looking forward to finding out whether Skye and Wally’s baby will be a boy or a girl! I highly recommend Murder of a Cranky Catnapper, particularly to those who enjoy a challenging cozy mystery with LOL humor in a charming Midwest town.