Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter (Dixie Hemingway Series #1) [NOOK Book]

Overview


Praise for Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter "At once a cozy mystery for animal lovers and a jarringly earthy hard-boiled whodunit about human corruption. Clement's sleuth, Florida pet-sitter Dixie Hemingway, is an engaging combination of vulnerability and toughness, but the real heroine of the story is a gritty Abyssinian cat. A good read!"- Susan Conant, author of Bride and Groom and the Holly Winter Dog Lover's Mysteries "Kick off your flip-flops, find a hammock, and settle in for a fun read. ...
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Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter (Dixie Hemingway Series #1)

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Overview


Praise for Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter "At once a cozy mystery for animal lovers and a jarringly earthy hard-boiled whodunit about human corruption. Clement's sleuth, Florida pet-sitter Dixie Hemingway, is an engaging combination of vulnerability and toughness, but the real heroine of the story is a gritty Abyssinian cat. A good read!"- Susan Conant, author of Bride and Groom and the Holly Winter Dog Lover's Mysteries "Kick off your flip-flops, find a hammock, and settle in for a fun read. Clement's Floridian heroine, Dixie Hemingway, spouts laugh-out-loud one-liners and words of wisdom in this intriguing whodunit filled with twists, turns, and some pretty captivating critters!"- Cynthia Baxter, author of Lead a Horse to Murder "Funny, engaging, and true to life."- Lee Charles Kelley, author of To Collar a Killer "Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter has it all: a feisty heroine, lovable animals, and a solid whodunit. What more could you ask for?"- Barbara Seranella, creator of the Munch Mancini crime novels
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In the third Dixie Hemingway mystery (after 2007's Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund), Clement blends elements of cozy and thriller to produce an unusual and enjoyable hybrid. Pet-sitter Dixie, a former sheriff's deputy on leave after the death of her husband and daughter, finds a corpse in the gatehouse of a mansion, but leaves the body for someone else to find. Traumatized by having killed someone recently, Dixie wants nothing to do with homicide, but fate decrees otherwise. Her new client, a mysterious scientist wracked by pain, owns the mansion, and Dixie ends up caring for him and his pet iguana as she tries to solve the murder and juggle her conflicting feelings for heartthrob Lieutenant Guidry and seductive attorney Ethan Crane. Clement's deft hand with plot and characters is sure to delight readers. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Publishers Weekly
Clement's assured cozy debut introduces an appealing heroine, 32-year-old Dixie Hemingway, who's given up her stressful job as a sheriff's deputy in Sarasota, Fla., to become a professional pet sitter. When Dixie calls early one morning on her latest client, a silver-blue Abyssinian named Ghost, she finds a dead man face down in the cat bowl. The contact person (a requirement when you leave an animal with a sitting service) has no clue where Ghost's owner, gorgeous Marilee Doerring, could have gone or why her locks were changed before she left. Unfortunately, when Dixie locates Marilee, she, too, is dead. And that makes Dixie suspect number one. With sensitivity and insight, Clement develops a plot line involving a bigoted, Bible-thumping radio psychologist, Carl Winnick; his repressed wife, Olga; and their gay teenage son, Phillip, who's a talented pianist. The difficulties and humor inherent to the pet-sitting business, a local law-enforcement hunk with romantic potential and crisp writing all bode well for future entries in the series. (Jan.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Sarasota, Fla., is a peaceful spot for a pet sitter until her job leads to murder. Dixie Hemingway is on medical leave from the Sheriff's Department after the accidental death of her husband and child. Caring for other people's pets looks like a less stressful job until she finds a corpse in the home of client Marilee Doering while looking after Ghost, her Abyssinian. When Marilee remains missing and Ghost must be sent to Kitty Haven, Dixie is soon involved with Marilee's vitriolic, homophobic neighbor, his alcoholic wife and their closeted, Juilliard-bound son Phillip. Marilee's grandmother Cora provides some answers when the body is identified as Marilee's wealthy lover and the father of the child she was forced to give up for adoption, but he's far from her only partner or the only source of her considerable income. Dixie becomes a prime suspect after she stumbles on a badly beaten Phillip and then on Marilee's decomposing body. A local lawyer adds to her woes when he announces that she's been left Marilee's estate in trust for Ghost, making her one wealthy pet sitter. Luckily, her dormant detecting skills return in time for her to get into Marilee's safe full of secrets, to get stalked by a felon and to get saved from certain death by Ghost. An entertaining debut. Dixie is a complex, well-conceived character and the plot fast-moving and believable.
From the Publisher
"A knock-out read. Clement offers vivid characters, a super plot, and a sense of place so real you can almost feel the sand between your toes. For anyone who loves mysteries, animals, or just plain great writing, this is a book to savor."

- Laurien Berenson, author of Hot Dog

"At once a cozy mystery for animal lovers and a jarringly earthy hard-boiled whodunit about human corruption. Clement's sleuth, Florida pet-sitter Dixie Hemingway, is an engaging combination of vulnerability and toughness, but the real heroine of the story is a gritty Abyssinian cat. A good read!"

- Susan Conant, author of Bride and Groom and the Holly Winter Dog Lover's Mysteries

"Kick off your flip-flops, find a hammock, and settle in for a fun read. Clement's Floridian heroine, Dixie Hemingway, spouts laugh-out-loud one-liners and words of wisdom in this intriguing whodunit filled with twists, turns, and some pretty captivating critters!"

- Cynthia Baxter, author of Lead a Horse to Murder

"Funny, engaging, and true to life."

- Lee Charles Kelley, author of To Collar a Killer

"Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter has it all: a feisty heroine, lovable animals, and a solid whodunit. What more could you ask for?"

- Barbara Seranella, creator of the Munch Mancini crime novels

"This first in a new mystery series is a keeper, with its plucky protagonist, cats galore, and a nice sense of place.... Look forward to the next in this smart series." - Library Journal

"An entertaining debut. Dixie is a complex, well-conceived character and the plot fast-moving and believable."

- Kirkus Reviews

"An appealing heroine....The difficulties and humor inherent to the pet-sitting business, a local law-enforcement hunk with romantic potential and crisp writing all bode well for future entries in the series."

- Publishers Weekly

"First-rate...a nice mix of light and dark."

- Booklist

"A new star in the 'mysteries with animals' firmament...this book stands out in the genre for its plotting, pacing, and well formed characters, in addition to an enticing tropical locale. May there be many more installments."

- The Kingston Observer

"Clement uses rich descriptions of her home turf to provide a concrete sense of place for her gripping mystery. Her characterizations are convincing, and the animals Dixie cares for are an integral part of the story."

- The Tennessean

"Impressive...a sure keeper, with well-developed characters, seamless prose and a winning plot.... Anticipate additional installments in this commendable new series."

- MysteryLovers.com

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429928182
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 1/2/2007
  • Series: Dixie Hemingway Series , #1
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 32,569
  • File size: 596 KB

Meet the Author


Blaize Clement is the author of the Dixie Hemingway mysteries: Duplicity Dogged the Dachshund, Even Cat Sitters Get the Blues, Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, Raining Cat Sitters and Dogs, and Cat Sitter Among the Pigeons. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, and Sisters in Crime. Clement has been a stay at home mom, dressmaker, caterer, and worked as a psychologist for 25 years. She has never been a pet sitter, but has shared her home with dogs, cats, birds, fish, and neurotic gerbils. She lives in Sarasota, Florida.
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Read an Excerpt


Chapter One

It was about 3:30 Thursday afternoon when I stopped by Marilee Doerring's house to pick up a new key. I have keys to all my clients' houses. I carry them on a big round ring like a French chatelaine. If a robber broke into my apartment, it wouldn't be to rip off my Patsy Cline CDs, it would be for my key ring.

I'm Dixie Hemingway, no relation to you know who. I'm a pet-sitter. I live on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida, and so do all my clients. Until three years ago, when the world crashed around me, I was a deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department. Now I take care of animals. I go to their homes while their owners are away and feed them and groom them and play with them. They don't ask a lot of questions or expect much from me, and I don't have to interact with people any more than I choose to. At least most of the time. On this particular afternoon, I was about to become a lot more involved with a lot more people than I wanted to be.

Siesta Key is an eight-mile barrier island connected to the mainland by two bridges. The Gulf of Mexico laps at the west side, and Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway are on the east. Inside the key itself, there are fifty miles of canals, so we have almost as many boats and boat docks as we have seabirds, which is a bunch. You name it, we've got it. Terns, plovers, gulls, egrets, herons, cranes, spoonbills, storks, ibis, and pelicans all happily scoop up their favorite entr‚es on our beaches and in our backyards. Offshore, manatees and dolphins play in the warm water.

Counting part-time residents, the key is home to about 24,000 suntanned people. Except for "the season," when snowbirds come down and inflict their money on us, and spring break, when college students get drunk and pee on the hibiscus, Siesta Key is a quiet, laid-back place. On the map, it looks like an alligator's head with an extremely long and skinny nose. Siesta Village and Roberts Bay form the head, with Crescent Beach where eyes would be. The nose is just wide enough for one street---Midnight Pass Road---with private lanes and tourist lodgings on each side, along with occasional undeveloped wooded areas.

Marilee's cat was a silver-blue Abyssinian named Ghost. Awful name, sweet cat. I had taken care of him several times before, and the only thing different about this time was that Marilee had called the night before to tell me she'd had her locks changed, so I would have to pick up a new key before she left town. She lived on the bay side of Midnight Pass Road, about midway between Turtle Beach and the south bridge. Her street was curvy, lushly tree-lined and short, the house a low-slung stucco with a red barrel-tile roof and deep recessed arches over doors and windows, the kind of Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid that Floridians love. Dwarf schefflerias and pittisporum and hollies made swirling patterns of ground cover in the front yard, interspersed with clumps of red geraniums and bird of paradise plants. The front door undoubtedly had once hung on a cathedral in some South American country, and the doorbell was a deep-bonging thing that sounded like it might have come from the same cathedral. As I waited, I could hear the faint sound of classical piano music from next door.

Marilee opened the door a cautious slit and peered out at me. Later, I would wonder about that, but at the time it didn't seem unusual for a cat owner. A cat can be taking a nap on its hundred-dollar kitty pillow or watching a television program especially designed for its feline pleasure, but let somebody open an outside door the narrowest bit, and it will go streaking out like it's escaping a torture chamber.

Marilee was stunningly beautiful, with glossy black hair tumbling over her shoulders in the kind of casual disarray that takes a lot of work. It framed an oval face with skin like a cosmetic commercial, only hers wasn't airbrushed, it was really that perfect. Her eyes were dark violet blue, with thick black lashes, and her mouth had the kind of moist expectancy that automatically makes you think of sex. I could smell expensive perfume, the kind I've only worn by rubbing a strip from a magazine on my wrist. She was wearing a short pink terry-cloth robe that cost more than my entire wardrobe, including the winter coat I have salted away in mothballs in case I ever travel north. Her legs were long and slim, tanned enough to look healthy but not so dark as to look like she tarted herself up in a tanning booth.

At first she looked surprised to see me, then in that breathy voice of hers, said, "Oh, you've come for the key! I was just about to jump in the shower. Hold on, I'll get it."

She closed the door and I imagined her bare feet sprinting over Mexican tile. Next door, the music stopped and a moment later the garage door opened and a white Jeep Cherokee backed out and headed toward Midnight Pass Road. As it made the turn, I could see the driver was a young man, no more than a teenager, which surprised me. Somehow, I never think of teenagers listening to classical music, which shows what a lowbrow I am.

Marilee opened the door again, wider this time, and stretched her arm out, with a loop of red silk ribbon dangling from a finger. A shiny new door key hung on the ribbon like a gold pendant on a necklace.

Feeling a bit like the upstairs maid, I held out my hand and let her drop it into my palm. I said, "Don't forget to leave me a number where I can reach you, and the date and time you'll return."

I should have whipped out my notebook and made her give me the number right then. But she knew the routine, and I already had all the pertinent information in my files---her vet's name and number, the dates of Ghost's immunization shots, his medical history, his favorite foods and toys and where they were located, and his favorite hiding place in case he decided to play Where's Ghost?

I told her to have a safe journey and not to worry about Ghost, and went on my merry way. I never saw Marilee again, at least not alive.

My alarm went off at 4:00 the next morning, and I got right up. One thing you can say for me, I wake up well. I sleep in underpants, so all I had to do was pull on khaki cargo shorts and a T-shirt and lace up my Keds. I brushed my teeth, splashed water on my face, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and I was ready. Animals don't expect you to dress up for them. I could go naked for all they care. By 4:15, I was halfway to my first stop. The sky was just beginning to pink a little around the edges, and the early April air was a balmy seventy degrees.

The sea breeze freshens in the early morning on Siesta Key, tickling the undersides of palm leaves and sending orgasmic tremors through trailing bougainvillea. Snowy egrets open their topaz eyes and stretch their blue-toed feet, and great blue herons stilt-leg it to the edge of the shore to pick up breakfast coming in on the tide. The air tastes of brine and fish and sand, and throaty chants of mourning doves underscore the squawk of seagulls rising and circling on air currents. It's my favorite time of day, a time when I have the streets almost to myself and can zoom along on my bike like a gull looking for early-waking grubs and unwary snails.

I always see to the dogs first and leave the cats and occasional birds and rabbits and hamsters for later. It isn't that I play favorites, it's just that dogs are needier than other pets. Leave a dog alone for very long and it'll start going a little nuts. Cats, on the other hand, try to give you the impression they didn't even know you were gone. "Oh, were you out?" they'll say. "I didn't notice." Then they'll raise their tails to show you their little puckered anuses and walk away.

My first stop was at Sam and Libby Grayson's, a retired couple who had gone north to visit their daughter. A wooded area separated the Graysons' street from Marilee's, and with tall trees lining the street and woods behind, it was like being in the middle of a dark forest. The Graysons' house was a two-story ultramodern built of cypress and glass, with a high vaulted cage around the lanai that gave it a look of dignified exuberance. One of the bulbs in the twin coach lights flanking their garage had burned out, and I made a mental note to replace it when I came back in the afternoon.

Until a few years ago, nobody on Siesta Key ever thought about burning security lights. But since everybody north of Georgia seems to have looked up one day and said, "By gawd, I'm moving to Florida!" we've started having break-ins here and there, even a murder now and then. So now people on Siesta Key leave night lights burning so potential burglars and rapists can see better.

I propped my bike in front of the garage and sorted through my keys. Rufus, the Grayson's schnauzer, started barking to show me he was on the job as guard dog, but he knew it was me and his heart wasn't in it. As soon as I pushed open the door, he was all over me, not the least bit ashamed to let me see how glad he was that I had come. I like that about dogs. They don't worry that you might not like them as much as they like you and hold off until they're sure, they just go ahead and declare themselves and take the chance of being rejected.

I knelt down to hug him and let him kiss my chin. "Hey, old sweet Rufus," I said, "How's my old sweet Rufus?" Dogs like you even when you say the same dumb things over and over. Cats expect you to have more self-restraint.

I got his leash out of the wicker basket in the foyer, and as soon as I opened the door, he was out like a shot. I had to hold him steady while I locked the door behind me, and then we both loped off. Rufus plunged off the pavement to pee on a palm tree, then raced on ahead of me. My Keds made smacking sounds on the asphalt, so I moved to the edge of the street where pine needles muffled the noise. I didn't want to cause some retiree to think a criminal was running down the street and haul out his handgun. Something about not having to shovel snow anymore and being surrounded by sunshine and tropical foliage 365 days of the year causes a lot of people to feel so guilty that they compensate by scaring themselves with thoughts of imminent crime. They go out and buy themselves a gun and sort of hope they'll get to shoot somebody with it, so you have to be careful.

Rufus did his business next to a hibiscus bush and I picked it up in a poop bag and kicked a cover of pine needles over the spot before I moved on. I like to be tidy. I let the leash play out so Rufus could feel independent, and he bounced into the middle of the street to check out a fluffy egret feather. He whoofed at it and nosed it around, showing off to let me see he was alert to anything new. Something caught his attention from the woods, and he raised his head and began barking loud, enough to wake everybody on the block.

I jerked the leash taut and said, "Shhhh! Quiet!"

He barked again and I turned to look over my right shoulder. I could have sworn I saw a figure slip behind a tree trunk in the murky shadows.

Any number of things could have been moving around back there in the predawn shadows. A snowy egret or a great blue heron could have dived for a baby black snake from one of the oak trees. A squirrel could have awakened early and leaped from a branch with a flash of white underbelly. Or somebody returning from a middle-of-the-night tryst might have seen me and ducked into that dark thicket. God knows, there are plenty of men and women who drift in and out of one another's beds here on the key, and some of them are married to other people. But still, the skin on my shoulders puckered and I felt uneasy, with that tingly feeling that tells you unfriendly eyes are watching.

I yanked Rufus out of the street and set off for the Graysons' house so fast, he had to do a scrambling dance to catch up. As we trotted up the driveway, the Herald Tribune delivery man turned into the street and sailed a paper into the flower bed by the front walk. I retrieved it and put it in a wooden chest outside the front door where people leave drop-offs when the Graysons aren't home. Somebody had left a stack of paperbacks rubber-banded together, and in the pale glow cast by the lone security light I could see a yellow Post-it stuck on top with a heavily scrawled "Thanx!"

I fed and brushed Rufus and put out fresh water for him. With him following me like an aide carrying a clipboard, I did a fast check of the house to make sure he hadn't gotten bored over night and chewed up something. The Graysons' latest acquisition was a full-sized carousel horse that had once been part of John Ringling's collection---Ringling practically built Sarasota, and you can't turn around here without seeing something circus-related. The horse was mounted on a floor-to-ceiling brass pole in the dining room, and it gave the room a happy, carefree look. I took a moment to admire it before I turned on the TV in the den for Rufus. I set it on Nickelodeon so he could watch Mister Ed. Then I hugged him good-bye.

"I'll be back tonight," I promised. "You be a good boy, okay?" I don't know why I ask animals questions like that. If one of them ever answers me, I'll probably freak out.

Rufus was sitting in the front hall with his head cocked to one side when I shut the door behind me. I felt guilty leaving him alone, but everybody has to come to the realization sooner or later that we're all alone in this world.

Copyright © 2005 by Blaize Clement

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Table of Contents

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First Chapter

Chapter One

It was about 3:30 Thursday afternoon when I stopped by Marilee Doerring's house to pick up a new key. I have keys to all my clients' houses. I carry them on a big round ring like a French chatelaine. If a robber broke into my apartment, it wouldn't be to rip off my Patsy Cline CDs, it would be for my key ring.

I'm Dixie Hemingway, no relation to you know who. I'm a pet-sitter. I live on Siesta Key in Sarasota, Florida, and so do all my clients. Until three years ago, when the world crashed around me, I was a deputy with the Sarasota County Sheriff's Department. Now I take care of animals. I go to their homes while their owners are away and feed them and groom them and play with them. They don't ask a lot of questions or expect much from me, and I don't have to interact with people any more than I choose to. At least most of the time. On this particular afternoon, I was about to become a lot more involved with a lot more people than I wanted to be.

Siesta Key is an eight-mile barrier island connected to the mainland by two bridges. The Gulf of Mexico laps at the west side, and Sarasota Bay and the Intracoastal Waterway are on the east. Inside the key itself, there are fifty miles of canals, so we have almost as many boats and boat docks as we have seabirds, which is a bunch. You name it, we've got it. Terns, plovers, gulls, egrets, herons, cranes, spoonbills, storks, ibis, and pelicans all happily scoop up their favorite entr‚es on our beaches and in our backyards. Offshore, manatees and dolphins play in the warm water.

Counting part-time residents, the key is home to about 24,000 suntanned people. Except for "the season," whensnowbirds come down and inflict their money on us, and spring break, when college students get drunk and pee on the hibiscus, Siesta Key is a quiet, laid-back place. On the map, it looks like an alligator's head with an extremely long and skinny nose. Siesta Village and Roberts Bay form the head, with Crescent Beach where eyes would be. The nose is just wide enough for one street--Midnight Pass Road--with private lanes and tourist lodgings on each side, along with occasional undeveloped wooded areas.

Marilee's cat was a silver-blue Abyssinian named Ghost. Awful name, sweet cat. I had taken care of him several times before, and the only thing different about this time was that Marilee had called the night before to tell me she'd had her locks changed, so I would have to pick up a new key before she left town. She lived on the bay side of Midnight Pass Road, about midway between Turtle Beach and the south bridge. Her street was curvy, lushly tree-lined and short, the house a low-slung stucco with a red barrel-tile roof and deep recessed arches over doors and windows, the kind of Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid that Floridians love. Dwarf schefflerias and pittisporum and hollies made swirling patterns of ground cover in the front yard, interspersed with clumps of red geraniums and bird of paradise plants. The front door undoubtedly had once hung on a cathedral in some South American country, and the doorbell was a deep-bonging thing that sounded like it might have come from the same cathedral. As I waited, I could hear the faint sound of classical piano music from next door.

Marilee opened the door a cautious slit and peered out at me. Later, I would wonder about that, but at the time it didn't seem unusual for a cat owner. A cat can be taking a nap on its hundred-dollar kitty pillow or watching a television program especially designed for its feline pleasure, but let somebody open an outside door the narrowest bit, and it will go streaking out like it's escaping a torture chamber.

Marilee was stunningly beautiful, with glossy black hair tumbling over her shoulders in the kind of casual disarray that takes a lot of work. It framed an oval face with skin like a cosmetic commercial, only hers wasn't airbrushed, it was really that perfect. Her eyes were dark violet blue, with thick black lashes, and her mouth had the kind of moist expectancy that automatically makes you think of sex. I could smell expensive perfume, the kind I've only worn by rubbing a strip from a magazine on my wrist. She was wearing a short pink terry-cloth robe that cost more than my entire wardrobe, including the winter coat I have salted away in mothballs in case I ever travel north. Her legs were long and slim, tanned enough to look healthy but not so dark as to look like she tarted herself up in a tanning booth.

At first she looked surprised to see me, then in that breathy voice of hers, said, "Oh, you've come for the key! I was just about to jump in the shower. Hold on, I'll get it."

She closed the door and I imagined her bare feet sprinting over Mexican tile. Next door, the music stopped and a moment later the garage door opened and a white Jeep Cherokee backed out and headed toward Midnight Pass Road. As it made the turn, I could see the driver was a young man, no more than a teenager, which surprised me. Somehow, I never think of teenagers listening to classical music, which shows what a lowbrow I am.

Marilee opened the door again, wider this time, and stretched her arm out, with a loop of red silk ribbon dangling from a finger. A shiny new door key hung on the ribbon like a gold pendant on a necklace.

Feeling a bit like the upstairs maid, I held out my hand and let her drop it into my palm. I said, "Don't forget to leave me a number where I can reach you, and the date and time you'll return."

I should have whipped out my notebook and made her give me the number right then. But she knew the routine, and I already had all the pertinent information in my files--her vet's name and number, the dates of Ghost's immunization shots, his medical history, his favorite foods and toys and where they were located, and his favorite hiding place in case he decided to play Where's Ghost?

I told her to have a safe journey and not to worry about Ghost, and went on my merry way. I never saw Marilee again, at least not alive.

My alarm went off at 4:00 the next morning, and I got right up. One thing you can say for me, I wake up well. I sleep in underpants, so all I had to do was pull on khaki cargo shorts and a T-shirt and lace up my Keds. I brushed my teeth, splashed water on my face, pulled my hair into a ponytail, and I was ready. Animals don't expect you to dress up for them. I could go naked for all they care. By 4:15, I was halfway to my first stop. The sky was just beginning to pink a little around the edges, and the early April air was a balmy seventy degrees.

The sea breeze freshens in the early morning on Siesta Key, tickling the undersides of palm leaves and sending orgasmic tremors through trailing bougainvillea. Snowy egrets open their topaz eyes and stretch their blue-toed feet, and great blue herons stilt-leg it to the edge of the shore to pick up breakfast coming in on the tide. The air tastes of brine and fish and sand, and throaty chants of mourning doves underscore the squawk of seagulls rising and circling on air currents. It's my favorite time of day, a time when I have the streets almost to myself and can zoom along on my bike like a gull looking for early-waking grubs and unwary snails.

I always see to the dogs first and leave the cats and occasional birds and rabbits and hamsters for later. It isn't that I play favorites, it's just that dogs are needier than other pets. Leave a dog alone for very long and it'll start going a little nuts. Cats, on the other hand, try to give you the impression they didn't even know you were gone. "Oh, were you out?" they'll say. "I didn't notice." Then they'll raise their tails to show you their little puckered anuses and walk away.

My first stop was at Sam and Libby Grayson's, a retired couple who had gone north to visit their daughter. A wooded area separated the Graysons' street from Marilee's, and with tall trees lining the street and woods behind, it was like being in the middle of a dark forest. The Graysons' house was a two-story ultramodern built of cypress and glass, with a high vaulted cage around the lanai that gave it a look of dignified exuberance. One of the bulbs in the twin coach lights flanking their garage had burned out, and I made a mental note to replace it when I came back in the afternoon.

Until a few years ago, nobody on Siesta Key ever thought about burning security lights. But since everybody north of Georgia seems to have looked up one day and said, "By gawd, I'm moving to Florida!" we've started having break-ins here and there, even a murder now and then. So now people on Siesta Key leave night lights burning so potential burglars and rapists can see better.

I propped my bike in front of the garage and sorted through my keys. Rufus, the Grayson's schnauzer, started barking to show me he was on the job as guard dog, but he knew it was me and his heart wasn't in it. As soon as I pushed open the door, he was all over me, not the least bit ashamed to let me see how glad he was that I had come. I like that about dogs. They don't worry that you might not like them as much as they like you and hold off until they're sure, they just go ahead and declare themselves and take the chance of being rejected.

I knelt down to hug him and let him kiss my chin. "Hey, old sweet Rufus," I said, "How's my old sweet Rufus?" Dogs like you even when you say the same dumb things over and over. Cats expect you to have more self-restraint.

I got his leash out of the wicker basket in the foyer, and as soon as I opened the door, he was out like a shot. I had to hold him steady while I locked the door behind me, and then we both loped off. Rufus plunged off the pavement to pee on a palm tree, then raced on ahead of me. My Keds made smacking sounds on the asphalt, so I moved to the edge of the street where pine needles muffled the noise. I didn't want to cause some retiree to think a criminal was running down the street and haul out his handgun. Something about not having to shovel snow anymore and being surrounded by sunshine and tropical foliage 365 days of the year causes a lot of people to feel so guilty that they compensate by scaring themselves with thoughts of imminent crime. They go out and buy themselves a gun and sort of hope they'll get to shoot somebody with it, so you have to be careful.

Rufus did his business next to a hibiscus bush and I picked it up in a poop bag and kicked a cover of pine needles over the spot before I moved on. I like to be tidy. I let the leash play out so Rufus could feel independent, and he bounced into the middle of the street to check out a fluffy egret feather. He whoofed at it and nosed it around, showing off to let me see he was alert to anything new. Something caught his attention from the woods, and he raised his head and began barking loud, enough to wake everybody on the block.

I jerked the leash taut and said, "Shhhh! Quiet!"

He barked again and I turned to look over my right shoulder. I could have sworn I saw a figure slip behind a tree trunk in the murky shadows.

Any number of things could have been moving around back there in the predawn shadows. A snowy egret or a great blue heron could have dived for a baby black snake from one of the oak trees. A squirrel could have awakened early and leaped from a branch with a flash of white underbelly. Or somebody returning from a middle-of-the-night tryst might have seen me and ducked into that dark thicket. God knows, there are plenty of men and women who drift in and out of one another's beds here on the key, and some of them are married to other people. But still, the skin on my shoulders puckered and I felt uneasy, with that tingly feeling that tells you unfriendly eyes are watching.

I yanked Rufus out of the street and set off for the Graysons' house so fast, he had to do a scrambling dance to catch up. As we trotted up the driveway, the Herald Tribune delivery man turned into the street and sailed a paper into the flower bed by the front walk. I retrieved it and put it in a wooden chest outside the front door where people leave drop-offs when the Graysons aren't home. Somebody had left a stack of paperbacks rubber-banded together, and in the pale glow cast by the lone security light I could see a yellow Post-it stuck on top with a heavily scrawled "Thanx!"

I fed and brushed Rufus and put out fresh water for him. With him following me like an aide carrying a clipboard, I did a fast check of the house to make sure he hadn't gotten bored over night and chewed up something. The Graysons' latest acquisition was a full-sized carousel horse that had once been part of John Ringling's collection--Ringling practically built Sarasota, and you can't turn around here without seeing something circus-related. The horse was mounted on a floor-to-ceiling brass pole in the dining room, and it gave the room a happy, carefree look. I took a moment to admire it before I turned on the TV in the den for Rufus. I set it on Nickelodeon so he could watch Mister Ed. Then I hugged him good-bye.

"I'll be back tonight," I promised. "You be a good boy, okay?" I don't know why I ask animals questions like that. If one of them ever answers me, I'll probably freak out.

Rufus was sitting in the front hall with his head cocked to one side when I shut the door behind me. I felt guilty leaving him alone, but everybody has to come to the realization sooner or later that we're all alone in this world.

Copyright © 2005 by Blaize Clement
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 25, 2011

    Who Done it & quirky Female Hero

    Dixie is a mess. She argues with herself and will lose. Can't keep out of trouble because she's nosey and curosity beyond smart. The book is an easy read that has good characters, friends & brother you wish you had, men to dream about and she backs away. Try to solve the mystery and it often fools you. Keeps you intrested. A good book to relax and put you in a good mood.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 7, 2011

    great book

    I loved this book. As a Floridian, it was refreshing to find an author who gets us! The story was engaging and kept my curiosity...... If you like mysteries and animals, then you will enjoy this easy read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    A nice read

    I used to live on the west coast of Florida and the author describes it perfectly. I liked the characters and enjoyed the plot. I'm continuing with the series.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 31, 2010

    Great Read!

    I absolutely loved, loved, loved this book. It was the fourth Dixie Hemingway novel that I had read and it was just as addicting as the first. This book is for anyone who loves animals or loves reading mysteries. I couldn't put it down.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 26, 2010

    Yep - Totally Fantastic Story

    This book literally made me want to become a pet-sitter, just because there are so many interesting little details about pets and animals in general mixed in with the mystery part - I don't usually even read mysteries, but it didn't matter, the characters are so well written, and it's humorous and touching at the same time. A really good book, and the series is exceptional! I would recommend it to anyone.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    fairly good

    I liked the story and the characters, but the use of the " f" word will keep me from reading more from this author.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2013

    I'm hooked!

    Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter by Blaize Clement offers a few things that are different within the cozy mystery genre. Normally I gravitate towards the small town setting in this genre, but a community just off the coast near Sarasota, Florida, adds many unique qualities. With the tropical local, Dixie is able to bike to most of her pet sitting jobs, which puts her in situations that driving would not; Dixie has an upper-scale clientele, which is different from the small town characters that I normally love; and things just seem more up to date in comparison to small town living.
    First of all, I adore Dixie, which is essential for me if I am to become addicted to yet another cozy series and there are plenty of other characters to love. Dixie's brother, who lives on the same property as Dixie, and his partner are among my favorites. Then there are the character that I love to hate, another must have element when it comes to my cozy reading pleasure.
    The mystery itself is a good one. I had no idea who the killer was until the very end. In fact, I was convinced that it was this person and then that one and in the end... I'm not telling.
    Was Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter a work of literary genius? No, but are cozies meant to be? I think not. They are meant to entertain the reader with a interesting characters, a good 'who-done-it', and a bit of humor, and Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter did all of that plus more, earning it 5-stars within its genre.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2012

    A good read

    I really enjoyed this book. I liked the main character. I have lost someone close to me and could really identify with her. I would like to read more books in the series and see how it developes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Love this book so far...it's so amazin

    I'm in love

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2012

    Funny!

    Great read can't wait for rest of series

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    My first reading experience with this series.

    Can't go wrong with this series.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2010

    New Author To Me

    I am now reading the third book in the series. I'll be all caught up soon and waiting for the next release.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Book, good characters, excellent author

    This is a charming book. If you like plot twists, animals, interesting people...you will love this book and it's subsequent series.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Fun Read

    This is the first book of her's that I've read....I really enjoyed it...The mix of murder, mystery and fun is perfect for when you don't want a to read a dark gruesome book...I will definitely read more or her books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 9, 2009

    Cat Sitter Mystery

    Enjoyed the first book so much, purchased the next in the series.

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  • Posted January 26, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Mysteries with cats are always fun

    Comparative behavior of cats and dogs is an added bonus to this Florida-based mystery. Although I figured out the killer early, I was tempted to change my mind with many of the red herrings. The pet sitter has odd hours, use of a dog¿s sense of smell, and access to empty homes which are plausible reasons to discover a crime scene and clues. Her characters are flawed and sympathetic for the most part. I look forward to the next Dixie Hemingway mystery.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2007

    Good action book

    This book takes awhile to get to the mystery solved point, Then the last chapter ties it up very short. This book was good and entertaining but some of the bad language in the book well was not needed. I would not give to my 15 year old daughter to read because of the language.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2007

    Pet sitting can be murder

    Dixie Hemingway left the police force after the accidental death of her husband and daughter. She felt unable to deal with people, so she became a pet sitter. After arriving at the home of a wealthy client, Marilee, to care for her cat, Dixie discovers a man who apparently drowned in the cat¿s water bowl. She cannot locate Marilee, and soon finds herself in the middle of the investigation. Dixie meets quite a cast of characters and is soon looking for answers the police don¿t seem to be finding. This puts her in some sticky situations as well as finding another dead person. Can she prove her innocence by finding the guilty party without putting herself in danger? I really enjoyed Dixie. She is fun but also still grieving her loss. I also enjoyed the descriptions of the various pets she cares for. Her brother and his partner really added to the story as well. I enjoyed this first installment and cannot wait for the next book to be published. I highly recommend this book.

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  • Posted December 9, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A fantastic who-done-it

    In Sarasota, Florida Dixie Hemingway still reels from the accidental deaths of her thirty year old husband and their three year old son when a nonagenarian driver hits the wrong pedal in a parking lot. Needing to time to recover, Dixie goes on medical leave from the Sheriff's Department to become a pet caretaker.............................. While making her rounds, Dixie enters the home of Marilee Doering to take care of the client¿s cat Ghost. In the Abyssinian¿s water bowl lays a dead male, who apparently drowned on the spot. Marilee has vanished and soon the corpse is identified as her lover who sired a child with her that he forced her to give away. Soon Dixie uncovers other lovers of Marilee before finding the woman¿s decaying corpse. Knowing she has to be the prime suspect having found two dead bodies, Dixie uses her skills to investigate the homicides.............. The key to why this is a fantastic who-done-it is the multifaceted Dixie who brings so much to the story line not just angst and grief. Her investigation into Marilee's life reveals secrets, money, and Ghost who inherits it all. The killer keeps an eye on Dixie to insure she does not get too close because if she does stalking will become murder. With a strong support cast (including animals especially Ghost and people deceased) fans of fast-paced clever mysteries will appreciate Dixie¿s efforts to uncover the culprit before she either goes to jail or dies....................... Harriet Klausner

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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