The Tell Tail Heart

Cat Café Mystery #3

By Cate Conte

ISBN 9781250072085

Brought to you by OBS Reviewer Jeanie


Welcome back to the charming New England coast, where Maddie James’s cat café is at risk of becoming a crime scene for the purrfect murder. . .

Maddie is hoping to have some downtime during Daybreak Island’s off-season to tackle her to-do list. Her grandfather’s house-turned-cat-café is under construction and she’s also scoping out places to open a juice bar on the island. On top of that, her relationship with adorable dog groomer Lucas has taken a pawsitive turn. But easy is getting harder every day for Maddie, especially when a big-name writer who’s on the island working on a new project winds up floating in the canal. This, on the exact same day an eccentric woman shows up at the cafe claiming Maddie’s cat, JJ, is hers. As the investigation into the dead writer picks up, Maddie realizes that even the neighbors she’s known all her life might be keeping secrets that go deep into the heart of this small seaside town. Meanwhile, a killer remains at-large…and on the prowl. (From Goodreads)


Third in one of my favorite “cat cozy” series, we are treated to adorable cats ready for adoption at JJ’s House of Purrs, the island’s new cat café. The characters are mostly delightful and realistic. The mysteries are well written and challenging, especially when some possible suspects are too kind to be considered while others seem too unlikable to not be bad guys. This is a fun and fabulous read for any time of year, whether at the beach or snuggled in with cats and hot cocoa in the deep of winter.

Daybreak Island, off the coast of Massachusetts, isn’t a popular winter destination. The delightful James family, including Grandpa Leo and Val, and Maddie’s California business partner Ethan, welcomes us to a new chapter in the Cat Café as the first floor of the family home is being remodeled to focus on the café. We are also welcomed to a new mystery – several, actually – and there is one man who is happy to be here during the off-season. 

Jason Holt is a famous author of thrillers who is usually a summer visitor to Daybreak. Maddie is familiar with his novels but had no clue that the man who paid $100 a day, a week in advance, was the famous writer until her sister Val told her. It’s hard to imagine that the handsome man who sat with Jasmine, a sweet kitty waiting to be adopted, on his lap as he typed away is the same well-known writer that her mother can’t wait to meet!

A woman came in to spend an hour at the cafe. She met JJ, the orange cat who adopted Maddie last summer and told her that JJ is actually her Pumpkin that she lost a couple years ago. Maddie is upset at the thought of someone trying to take away her rock, her friend after whom the café is named. The older woman and the writer exchange what appear to be glares of recognition. Thankfully Grandpa, retired Police Chief, came into the room and escorted the woman out.

Despite the fear that the woman might break in and steal JJ, Maddie and boyfriend Lucas go out. She sees the woman who claims JJ is hers talking with a friend of the family, Leopard Man. He is the island’s “quirky character” who dresses in leopard garb. When they head for the movie theater, a street near the yacht club is blocked by police cars and lights. The only thing Maddie can learn from Craig, an officer she used to date in high school, is that a man was in the canal.

Maddie and Lucas go back to the family home to snuggle with JJ and a good movie. When they were almost home, Leopard Man ran into the street. He wants to see Maddie’s grandpa, so they give him a ride and he awaits Leo’s return. Later, Leo gives strict instructions that they are to tell no one that Leopard Man has been here. The next morning, they learn that the man in the canal, who was indeed dead, was none other than the author, Jason Holt. Leo shares another secret: Holt had been murdered; it looked like a hit and run. And they hear that Leopard Man is being sought by the police.

Val, who just opened her new business as a party planner, had been at the yacht club with the wealthy Ava-Rose. Val and Maddie’s mother had suggested Ava-Rose hire Val for her Thanksgiving party planning. Ava-Rose is distracted with a mystery, also, that she wants Maddie’s help to solve. Someone has been stealing valuable ship reproductions from the club. The club is closed for the season except for special events. She has a secret, also. While “staking out” the club, the 80-something lady saw Dr. Drake, the island’s veterinarian, meet and talk with Jason Holt. It looked as if the conversation grew heated, and Drake left in his car. Minutes later, she heard a car racing, a thump, and the car take off.

I am impressed with the author’s paintings of the characters! I feel as if I got to know Maddie, Val, and Leopard Man even better, and could almost picture them, along with Lucas, Ethan, and Leo. I could tell that it is hard for Maddie to trust others, as she waffles on her thoughts of Leopard Man and at least one of the possible suspects. Lucas, who she realized she began to rely on, suddenly does something out of character, and she wonders whether they are still in a relationship.

So many mysteries, so many secrets, so many suspects! Is there an overlap between who the suspects are and what they are involved with? While murder trumps theft, there is at least one person who might be involved with both. Research that Maddie and her friend, Damian, does shows just enough information to be dangerous, including hazardous to Maddie as she asks questions and jumps to conclusions. It is a challenging set of circumstances, and I definitely had much to mull over as I tried to reason out whodunit. I will say that the resolutions are stunning, and much of the end is satisfactory with all but one of the mysteries, or secrets, is cleared up. I highly recommend this cozy mystery and those earlier in the series!

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*