Nine Lives and Alibis
Cat Café Mystery
By Cate Conte
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Jeanie
In Nine Lives and Alibis, the seventh in Cate Conte’s Cat Café beloved cozy mystery series, Daybreak Island is gearing up for Halloween―but this year it seems like it’ll be all tricks and no treats.
It’s October in Daybreak Harbor, which means everything Halloween. The town is going all out for the holiday, hoping to one-up the festivities in neighboring Salem, Massachusetts, and Maddie James is delighted to be part of the planning for the annual happenings.
But trouble brews when Maddie’s youngest sister, Sam, books a famous medium, Balfour Dempsey, to come to town for the celebrations and stay in the local haunted inn―along with his equally famous black cat. The town busybody books a secret reading with Balfour and doesn’t want anyone to know why. Maddie’s best friend Becky is hell-bent on getting Balfour to help her solve two 40-year-old mysteries―a murder and a missing maid. And the psychic has a stalker who’s followed him here to the island, demanding he connect with her dead husband.
When Balfour is pushed off the cliffs behind the inn to his death and his beloved cat goes missing, it throws the whole town into a frenzy. And Maddie and her family find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery straight out of a Halloween movie.
What an intriguing and delightful new mystery this is, the best in the series so far! The mystery is complex with many clues that somehow have to fit together. There may be a tie-in to a murder and disappearance from 40 years ago. Welcome to Daybreak Harbor, on the small but mighty Daybreak Island! The island off of Cape Cod includes several small, close-knit communities and sounds beautiful, particularly in October. The characters, including my favorites, are three-dimensional, engaging, and care about this island. I loved the cats that are part of the novel, including JJ, the cat who chose Maddie.
Maddie and her grandfather, Leo, run JJ’s House of Purrs, her cat rescue that works in conjunction with her cat café. The rescue has a special area built into the huge old family home and the café in the unattached garage. For an island, there has been an unlimited supply of cats in need of homes! The main source of all these cats is Katrina, the local animal control officer.
Maddie’s family is frequently involved with organizing Daybreak Harbor festivities. Her mom may get the town’s approvals and offer general suggestions, but her daughters handle most of the work. Maddie’s sister Val oversees each of the events throughout the almost two-week festival; Maddie and their sister Sam also have substantial roles to fill. The headliner talent grew up on the island. Now a nationally known psychic, Balfour has successfully helped police departments around the country solve cold cases.
One of Balfour’s firm requests is that he stay at the Inn at Lighthouse Point. The Inn has been in the owner’s family for several generations and is reputed to be haunted. One haunting is thought to result from the murder of a businessman on the sixth floor forty years ago in October. A couple weeks later, one of the maids who worked there went to a Halloween party and was never seen again. It is believed she, also, haunts the inn. Balfour wanted to stay in the suite from which the businessman fell. He also needs accommodations for his cat that travels everywhere with him, Balfour Junior. The sixth floor has only been used for offices for years and the entry to the elevator in that was sealed over.
Balfour’s mother still lives on the island and is thrilled to have him there. Some people, like Maddie, have mixed feelings about his presence, as she doesn’t believe psychics in general, or their foretelling of the future or making contact with those long deceased. Others are excited, either wanting their own future read or their loved ones contacted. Some want Balfour to solve the forty-year-old cases. Others do not want him there at all, or want the past to be examined. On the first night of the festival, it is a terrible shock when Balfour was found dead from a fall from the cliff the inn sits atop. In addition, his cat, Balfour Junior, was missing, and time was of the essence to find the pet.
Each character is defined through their realistic conversations and actions. Maddie is our protagonist; it has been interesting and fun to watch her and her friends grow through this series. Sufficient backstory is shared on each of the “regulars” for both new and returning readers to enjoy. Balfour and his visiting staff are also described as well as necessary for their roles.
As it is several chapters into the novel before the murder takes place, this reader, Maddie, and Leo became acquainted with Balfour in their meetings after his arrival. I had become invested in his character, sincerity, and lack of theatrics; thus, I was invested in the search. A stalker had followed him there, and his staff was upset following his announcement of a change to his business. He also had a good idea who was behind the cold murder case, a local. The suspect list was a work in progress, and Maddie and Becky, her best friend and local newspaper editor were researching several people, past and present. The author is adept at ratcheting up suspense without giving up the bad guy, so there were surprises regarding the present and the past. I was very satisfied with the resolutions, and highly recommend this cozy mystery and series!