Plot Boiler

Black Cat Bookshop Mystery, Book #5

By Ali Brandon

ISBN 9780425261552

Author’s website:

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


The New York Times bestselling author of Literally Murder returns to Pettistone’s Fine Books, where the silence of Hamlet the cat speaks volumes about two mysterious deaths…

It’s almost Fourth of July, and to boost customer traffic in their Brooklyn neighborhood, bookseller Darla Pettistone decides to throw a block party. All the local shop owners are thrilled—except the proprietor of Perky’s Coffee Shop, who thinks Darla is trying to poach his customers by selling her own caffeinated brew in her new bookshop café.

But when Hamlet comes upon the owner’s not-so-perky wife, it’s clear a killer has crashed the party. And when a second local business owner shuffles off this mortal coil—as Hamlet’s namesake would say—Darla and her curious cat must perform some fancy footwork to shine a spotlight on a secret worth killing for.


What a fun, engaging read!  Well, except for the murders.  Hamlet is a cat with a definite ‘tude and a nose for clues.  He has an opinion about most people who are privileged to meet him, from children who have seen him on YouTube and want their pictures taken with him to those who visit the shop for the first time.  Even though he came with Pettistone’s Fine Books in Brooklyn, NY when Darla inherited it from her great aunt, I don’t think Darla would give him up for all the books in Brooklyn.  Good thing, since Hammy really owns Darla!  Pettistone’s has caffeine, books, and a cat…it just doesn’t get any better!

Darla contributed many hours to get together the vendors on this block of historic brownstones to have an outdoor 4th of July block party.  As final preparations are made for decorating, replacing a last-minute band back-out, and placing display tables and cases, Darla had one more task to complete – get the balance of the shared entry fee from the owners of Perky’s Coffee Shop.  George King, the self-proclaimed King of Coffee, had protested the addition of the coffee bar at Pettistone’s, and was less than excited about the block party, so Darla tread softly – and George referred her to his lovely wife, Livvy.  Darla also hoped to learn more about a special coffee blend she heard some young people discussing their preference for.  What a special blend it was!  Very expensive…how could teens afford it?

The block party was a success; even the summer heat and humidity didn’t stop the steady flow of folks who sampled free or reduced-price wares from the shops, listened to the unique band, watched Martial Arts demos and the dance school’s “flash mob”, even coming to meet Hamlet, the Youtube star.  Nobody was prepared for the shocking end of day, though, when Hamlet sensed the way to Livvy King, dead near the front of Perky’s while her husband had napped at their booth.  Then within a matter of hours, the owner of the dance studio – a respected ballerina – was also found dead in another shop.

As the fifth novel in the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series, Plot Boiler could be enjoyed as a stand-alone or within the series – but I encourage you to enjoy the whole series!  While the author thoroughly developed the primary characters early on, with each mystery we see new facets, strengths, and talents in them.  I like best friends Darla and Jake; their diverse ages and backgrounds contribute as much to their friendship as their common interests. Hamlet, of course, ‘knows’ he is the star (well, isn’t he?) and without his presence, the bookshop and the series would not be the same.  This cat with a ‘tude brings entertainment, a sense of safety and well-being, and a whimsical whisker of imagination to all who come in contact with him!

The characters specific to this novel or introduced for the first time are well-suited to their defined roles.  Even Detective Fiorello “Fi” Reese’s fiancée, Connie, while certainly out-of-character for his personality, was an interesting woman.  Hopefully we haven’t seen the last of her!  Pinky, leader of the band that Darla’s barista Robert referred for a last-minute fill-in, had unexpected talent.  The newbies also continue to educate me, this time introducing me to some current slang.  Catching up with familiar friends and meeting new ones has been an absolute blast!

Plot Boiler is very well-organized and thoroughly executed; I can’t imagine any loose threads at the close of the day.  The means of death was certainly a surprise for me; it was one of the plot twists that kept me on my toes!  While like Darla I disagreed with the cops’ line of thinking, suspects and motives just would not match up for me.  This reader was stumped, as an excellent mystery can do, until it was too late, so it’s a good thing Darla wasn’t waiting for me to figure it out! I do, however, see that this is a four-paws and a tail UP tale and highly recommend this cozy to cat, book, and mystery lovers who appreciate well-written mysteries.  Plot Boiler has given me hours of feline fun without additional feline chores; Ali Brandon has designed an amazing bookstore where I can’t wait to spend more time!  PS Thank you, Ali, for the scoop on Livvy’s health challenge – perhaps your gentle info will help more understand…

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review as part of their ongoing blog tour*