Fantastical felines Owen and Hercules are ready to help librarian Kathleen Paulson pounce on a killer art thief in this novel in the Magical Cats Mystery series.
Normally, the arrival of an art exhibition at the Mayville Heights library would be cause for celebration. But thanks to the overbearing curator and high-tech security system that comes with it, Kathleen’s life has been completely disrupted. Even Owen and Hercules have been affected, since their favorite human doesn’t seem to have a spare moment to make their favorite fish crackers or listen to Barry Manilow.
But when Kathleen stops by the library late one night and finds the curator sprawled on the floor—and the exhibition’s most valuable sketch missing—it’s suddenly time to canvass a crime scene. Now Kathleen, her detective boyfriend Marcus, and her clever cats have to sniff out a murderous thief, before anyone else has a brush with death...
About the Author
Sofie Kelly is the New York Times author of the Magical Cat mysteries, including A Midwinter's Tale and Final Catcall, and a mixed-media artist who lives on the east coast with her husband and daughter. She also writes the Second Chance Cat Mystery series under the name Sofie Ryan.
Read an Excerpt
There was a severed head on the blue patterned quilt folded at the bottom of the bed. I turned my head slowly and looked into the eyes of a killer. He stared unblinkingly at me. It would have been terrifying if the head hadn’t been from a yellow catnip Fred the Funky Chicken and the eyes hadn’t belonged to my little black-and-white cat, Hercules.
“What did you do?” I asked, frowning at him.
“Merow,” he said, looking from the disembodied chicken head to me. If the cat had been a person I would have said that there was a touch of righteous indignation in his tone.
Hercules’s brother, Owen, had a thing for catnip chickens. My neighbor Rebecca and my best friend, Maggie, were always buying them for Owen, much to his delight.
Hercules didn’t see the appeal of catnip at all, and he especially didn’t like dried bits of it in his things. For the past few months Owen’s chickens had been turning up in his brother’s territory: upside down in Hercules’s dinner dish, making a lump in the middle of his favorite blanket and sitting in what he considered to be his spot on the bench in the sun porch. As far-fetched as it seemed, I knew something was going on. It was almost as if Hercules was doing this on purpose, although I didn’t quite see why.
I stretched, slid my feet into my slippers and stood up. “Owen is not going to take this well,” I said to Hercules.
“Murp,” he replied, dropping back to the floor. He looked up at me, green eyes narrowed, furry chin jutting out.
“This isn’t going to fix anything,” I said, heading for the bathroom. Hercules trailed me, making little noises as though he were trying to justify swiping the catnip toy and decapitating it.
Just then I heard a loud, furious yowl from downstairs. Herc’s furry head swiveled at the sound. I leaned down and gave the top of his head a quick scratch. “You’re on your own,” I said. Then I darted into the bathroom and closed the door.
Of course that was pointless. If Hercules had been an ordinary cat he would have stayed on the other side of the door, in the hallway. But he wasn’t. So he didn’t.
Hercules had a . . . unique ability. He could walk through walls—and closed bathroom doors. Which he did. An area on the wood panel door seemed to shimmer for a moment and then the cat was standing at my feet. I had no idea how he did it. And it wasn’t like I could ask anyone. Walking though walls defied the laws of physics, not to mention logic. I didn’t want Hercules to end up in a research lab with electrodes stuck to his head—or worse. And I didn’t really want to end up there myself, either.
“You can’t hide in here forever,” I told him.
He half turned to look at the bathroom door he’d just come through. Then he began to wash his face. Translation: “I can for now.”
Unlike his brother, Owen didn’t have the walking-through-walls skill, but he did have the ability to become invisible, which meant he could lurk in wait for Hercules anywhere in the house. And he would.
“I’m having a shower,” I warned, leaning over to turn on the water.
Hercules took several steps backward. Among his many little quirks was an intense aversion to getting his feet wet, more so than the average cat. A heavy dew on the lawn in the backyard would make him hold up a paw and give me his best pathetic look in a calculated scheme to get me to carry him—which most of the time I did.
The first week of April had been rainy in Mayville Heights and there were only a few patches of snow left on the grass behind the house, but the ground was still soggy, which meant that for the last week I’d been carrying Hercules though our yard into Rebecca’s so he could have coffee with Everett Henderson, Rebecca’s new husband. Everett had funded the renovations to the Mayville Heights Free Public Library for its centennial and had hired me to oversee everything as head librarian. In eighteen months I’d fallen in love with the town, and when Everett offered me a permanent job I’d said yes.
When I got out of the shower Hercules was gone. I dressed, dried my hair and went downstairs to see what returning salvo Owen was going to fire in this little war.
Owen was in the kitchen, sitting next to the refrigerator, the picture of innocence, with a little smug thrown in. The headless body of Fred the Funky Chicken was dumped in his bowl. Why wasn’t he yowling his frustration at me or prowling around the house looking for his brother?
I leaned over to stroke the top of his gray head. “You’re taking this very well,” I said, narrowing my eyes at him. “Don’t think I don’t know you’re up to something.”
He gave me his best “Who, me?,” which didn’t fool me for a minute. I started the coffee, put my bowl of oatmeal in the microwave and then got the cats’ breakfast.
Hercules appeared in the living room doorway. He looked warily toward Owen. The small gray tabby already had his head bent over his bowl. Herc started for his dish, moving slowly, his eyes locked on his brother. Owen gave no sign that he was interested; in fact, he shifted his body sideways a bit so Hercules was out of his line of sight.
I gave a sigh of relief. Maybe Owen didn’t care about the decapitated chicken. Maybe he’d finally had his fill of them. Maybe he had no retaliation planned.
Maybe by now I’d know better.
Owen shifted again. I saw a flash of gray paw. Then his water dish upended and a puddle of water spread across the floor . . . in front of Hercules’s food bowl. Owen shook his foot and continued to eat. Damp feet were not an issue for him.
Hercules howled in anger. Then he looked at me.
I shook my head. “You knew when you went all Ozzy Osbourne on the chicken that it would be a declaration of war as far as Owen is concerned.” I reached for the coffeepot. “I’m staying out of it.”
Hercules’s green eyes narrowed to two slits. He moved around the pool of water, looking for some way to get to his dish. There wasn’t one. Somehow, Owen had managed to tip his water bowl in just the right spot so that Hercules’s breakfast was marooned.
Had he planned it that way? Was he capable of planning it?
Hercules made a noise that sounded a lot like a sigh. The only indication Owen gave that he’d heard anything was a slight twitch of his left ear.
Herc dipped his head and sniffed the floor. It was clean. I’d scrubbed it on my hands and knees with a scrub brush just the night before, my way of working off a frustrating day at the library. The cat’s pink tongue darted out and he began to lap at the water. Owen’s head came up.
“Touché,” I said, holding up my coffee cup.
He made grumbling sound low in his throat. I didn’t need to speak cat to know that he was probably telling me where I could go.
I ate my oatmeal while Hercules lapped his way to his dish. As soon as he could reach, he stretched out one white-tipped paw and pulled the bowl closer. He made a dramatic show of shaking both paws before bending his head to eat.
Owen had finished breakfast by then. He made an equally dramatic exit, picking up the remains of the yellow catnip chicken and making a wide circle around his brother before disappearing—literally—into the living room.
I finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen. By then Hercules had eaten his breakfast. He started a meticulous face-washing routine while I wiped up the last of the spilled water. I moved his dishes over by the coat hooks on the wall by the back door and left Owen’s beside the refrigerator, giving both cats some fresh water and a tiny pile of sardine cat crackers.
By the time I was ready for work there was still no sign of Owen. “I’m leaving,” I called. After a moment there was an answering meow.
Hercules was in “his” spot on the bench in the porch. He went ahead of me out the door—waiting for me to open it this time—and waited at the edge of the lawn.
I looked across into Rebecca’s backyard. I still thought of the small blue house as Rebecca’s, even though she and Everett were married now. Rebecca was one of the first people I’d met when I’d arrived in Mayville Heights, and I admit I’d been happy when she’d told me that she and Everett had decided to live in her little house after the wedding.
I could see Everett in the gazebo, seated at the table with his coffee and the newspaper. I knew there would be a treat for Hercules as well.
“Merow,” the cat said, winding around my ankles.
I bent down and scooped him up. He nuzzled my chin.
“You’re such a suck-up,” I said.
He licked my chin and looked up at me as if to say, “Is it working?”
“You’re spoiled,” I told him as we headed across the grass.
Everett smiled and got to his feet. “Good morning, Kathleen. Good morning, Hercules.” He was wearing a crisp white shirt with a navy-and-red-striped tie, along with the trousers and vest of a gray suit. His beard and what little white hair he had were closely cropped and he looked every inch the successful—and self-made—businessman that he was, with a bit of the sex appeal of actor Sean Connery thrown in.
Hercules jumped up onto the wide railing of the gazebo. Everett took a tiny container of cat kibble from the table and set it next to Herc. “All-natural ingredients,” he said to me.
“You’ve been talking to Roma,” I said with a grin.
Roma Davidson was the town veterinarian as well as one of my closest friends. She’d decided that the boys had been eating way too much people food and she’d made it her mission to get people to stop sneaking them toast and peanut butter (me) or pie (Rebecca).
He nodded. “I have my orders.” He gestured at the stainless steel coffee carafe on the round metal table. There was a second stoneware mug next to it. “Do you have time to join me for a cup of coffee? I’d like to discuss something.”
I glanced at my watch. “I have a few minutes.”
“Good,” he said. “Have a seat.” He indicated the other chair at the table and reached for the carafe. Hercules already had his head in the little dish.
I gestured in the cat’s direction. “If he becomes a bother, let me know.”
Hercules turned his head to look at me, his green eyes wide.
Everett set the mug of coffee in front of me. “Hercules is good company. He has some interesting insights on what the town council has been up to.” A smile pulled at the corners of his mouth and was reflected in his dark eyes.
The cat made a soft murp of self-satisfaction and went back to his treat.
I reached for the small pitcher of cream. “I’ll be sure to get his input before the next council elections,” I said with a completely straight face.
Everett leaned back in his seat and straightened the crease in his trousers. “You could do worse,” he said. He regarded me over the top of his cup. “How are things going at the library?”
I knew he didn’t mean in general. Patron visits were up, so was borrowing, and Lita—Everett’s executive assistant—and I had just recently secured a grant to add more books to the children’s department. In recent months we’d hosted several workshops and talks that had brought people all the way from Minneapolis. The most recent special event at the library was a traveling exhibit of museum art from the 1800s. I knew that’s what Everett was referring to.
“We’ve had some . . .” I hesitated, searching for the right word “. . . challenges.”
Everett gave a snort of laughter. “In less politically correct terms, Margo Walsh is a pain in the ass.”
“She’s not that bad,” I said with a smile.
He shook his head. “You’re probably the only person who’s worked with the woman who would say that.”
Margo Walsh was the curator of the exhibit. Its focal point was a detailed drawing of a Dakota encampment by military artist Sam Weston, who had lived in Minnesota early in his career. The drawing belonged to Marshall and Diana Holmes. The brother and sister had inherited it, along with other artwork, after the recent death of their father. The Weston sketch, as well as several other pieces in the show, were on long-term loan to the museum, but somehow the siblings were very involved in every aspect of the exhibit, probably because their late father’s money was funding it.
I’d watched Margo with both of them and I got the feeling from her body language that she would have been happier if they’d been a lot less involved. According to my friend Maggie, who was an artist herself, when someone loaned a piece from their collection to a museum, that was generally the end of their involvement. Marshall and Diana Holmes didn’t seem to know that.
At each stop on the exhibit’s tour Margo was featuring artwork from local artists. Maggie, who had two pieces of her art in the show, had been impressed with how much the curator had known about the local art scene and how positive she’d been.
Margo might have been enthusiastic about the artists who were part of the Mayville Heights artists’ co-op, but she was decidedly unenthusiastic and vocal about the exhibit’s delicate paintings and sketches, some of which were more than two hundred years old, being out of a climate-controlled museum setting.
I took another sip of my coffee as I tried to think of the best way to explain Margo Walsh to Everett. “Margo is very, very good at what she does,” I said. “She and Maggie have spent hours finding just the right frames and mats for the local pieces that are in the show. She’s studied the way the light comes in through the windows at different times of day just to make sure they’re shown at their best.”
One of Everett’s eyebrows went up, but he didn’t say anything.
“She’s picky,” I admitted, fingering the rim of my cup. I could have used a less diplomatic word. Or told Everett that more than once I’d had the urge to brain the woman with my briefcase. But I didn’t. I set down my coffee and leaned forward. “Everett, this exhibit is going to bring a lot of people into the library, into Mayville Heights. It’s going to showcase some very talented people—Maggie, Ruby, Nic Sutton. I can handle Margo Walsh. Don’t worry about it.”
He studied my face for a moment and seemed to be satisfied with my response. “If there’s anything I can do—” he began.
“I know—call Lita,” I said. The exhibit had come with grant money to install a temporary security system at the library. I was already talking to Lita several times a day. “You could give her a bonus when this is over,” I added with a smile. “I couldn’t do it without her.”
That was true. Lita was related to at least half the town and it seemed as if she’d gone to school with or babysat pretty much everyone else.
Everett took half a piece of bacon from his plate, turned and offered it to Hercules. The cat took it from him, bobbed his head in thanks and dropped it into his now-empty dish. I refrained from pointing out that bacon was not on Roma’s list of approved cat treats.
“Thank you for the coffee,” I said, getting to my feet, “and for your support.”
Everett stood up as well. “I’m very glad I hired you,” he said.
“I told you Kathleen was the best choice,” a voice said behind us. It was Rebecca, carrying the coffeepot in one hand and a small waxed-paper-wrapped package in the other.
Hercules leaned around one of the gazebo uprights.
“Good morning, Hercules,” she said with a smile. The cat seemed to smile back at her.
She looked at me. “Your hair looks beautiful. Are you still happy with it?”
Rebecca had been a hairdresser before she retired and she’d been cutting my hair since I’d arrived in Mayville Heights while I grew out a pixie cut that I’d gotten on impulse and immediately regretted. Unlike Maggie, whose close-cropped blond curls hugged her head and showed off her neck and gorgeous cheekbones, my hair when it was that short poked out in every direction. I looked like the scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz. Rebecca had layered my bangs and evened the ends of my hair on the weekend and I still felt a bit like a shampoo model when I tossed my head.
I took the coffeepot from her and set it on the table. “I love it,” I said, leaning over to give her a hug.
“I’m glad,” she said. She held out the paper-wrapped package. “This is for you.”
I could smell cinnamon. I pulled out of the hug and narrowed my gaze at her. “Coffee cake?” I asked.
“Cinnamon streusel muffins,” she said. “I know how hard you’ve been working. I thought you might like them for a break a little later this morning.”
“You’re an angel,” I said.
She gestured at the package. “There are two in case you wanted to share with anyone who might drop by the library.” Her expression was all innocence, but I knew she was talking about Detective Marcus Gordon. Ever since Rebecca and Everett had gotten their happy ending, she’d been gently nudging Marcus and me even closer together. At the wedding she’d even broken with tradition and handed me her bouquet of daisies, gently telling us not to wait too long for our happily ever after. Given how long it had taken the two of us to get past our differences, a few gentle nudges probably weren’t a bad idea.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said. I looked over at Hercules. “Are you coming?”
He gave a soft “murp” then stretched and began to wash his face.
“He’s fine, Kathleen,” Everett said.
“They like to talk politics,” Rebecca said as though Hercules was a person and not a cat. She touched my arm. “I’ll see you this afternoon. Margo Walsh invited the board at two to see how the installation of the exhibit is going.” She frowned slightly. “It is all right, isn’t it?”
“Of course,” I said. It would have been better if Margo had told me she’d invited the board for a look-see, but it wasn’t the first time she’d blindsided me like this.
The day after the layout for the exhibit had finally been settled, Margo had decided to add an artist from Red Wing, Rena Adler, who worked with egg tempera. Larry Taylor, the electrician who had been wiring the new lights Margo felt she needed, had just laughed and shaken his head when I’d told him the final lighting plan was now the former lighting plan because the way the artwork was being displayed had changed. On the other hand, my parents were both actors, so Margo wasn’t the first temperamental person I’d had to deal with.
“Have a good day,” I said to Everett. I turned to Rebecca. “I’ll see you this afternoon.” I took my muffins and started back to my own yard.
• • •
Mary Lowe was waiting by the library steps when I pulled into the parking lot. She was wearing a soft green sweater with yellow chickens dancing across the front. She had a big collection of sweaters to match the seasons, including a Christmas sweater with flashing lights and a Halloween cardigan with moaning sound effects. With her tiny stature, soft gray hair and sweet expression, she looked like someone’s cookie-baking grandmother—which she was. And as state kickboxing champion for her age and gender, she could also kick your kidneys up behind your ears, as she liked to put it.
I looked around as I walked over to Mary. There was no sign of Margo Walsh’s car, or of the woman herself. More than once in the past two weeks I’d arrived at the library to find her waiting at the top of the steps by the front door, impatiently tapping one elegant high-heeled foot on the landing.
“No Margo?” I asked Mary, raising one eyebrow at her.
“No sign of her,” she said, following me up the stairs to the entrance. “Thank heavens for small mercies.”
I looked at her over my shoulder.
She rolled her eyes. “Or in the case of Lady Margo, large mercies.”
“She’s not that bad,” I chided as I stepped through the first set of doors and punched in the alarm code. Margo had gotten off on the wrong foot with Mary the day she’d arrived when she’d tried to send the older woman for coffee.
Mary laughed and reached up to pat my cheek. “Do you ever say a negative word about anyone, Kathleen?” She moved ahead of me into the library and flipped on the overhead lights. “You don’t have to say anything because I already know the answer.”
I held up one hand, fingers spread apart. “Five days, Mary. That’s it. If everything goes well—and it will—Margo will be finished on Friday. All we have to do is make it to the end of the week and things will get back to normal.”
Mary shook her head and laughed. “Oh, Kathleen,” she said. “Just because you get the monkey off your back doesn’t mean the circus has left town.”
Abigail arrived about five minutes later, carrying a Sweet Thing box and a square stainless steel tin. She held them out to me. “One dozen of Georgia’s maple crème cupcakes and some Earl Grey tea bags,” she said with a smile.
“You’re a lifesaver. Thank you,” I said. After I’d left Rebecca and Everett I’d called Abigail and asked her if she could bring some tea bags so we could at least offer the library board a cup after their tour. Abigail was friends with Georgia Tepper, who ran Sweet Thing, the cupcake bakery. She’d offered to stop in and bring a dozen of whatever cupcakes Georgia had on hand. I’d been happy to take her up on the offer.
“Do we have enough cups in the lunchroom to give tea to the entire library board?” Abigail asked as she followed me up the stairs.
“I brought cups and saucers from home,” I said.
Mary had made coffee. The aroma drew me toward the small second-floor lunchroom.
Mary had set two mugs on the counter. When she saw Abigail she grabbed a third. Once we all had coffee we sat around the small table and I went over the day’s activities.
The art exhibit was using the open space overlooking the water that normally held our computers. The computers had taken over the magazine and reading area, which was now temporarily in the larger of our two meeting rooms. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but it was the only way to keep the computers in sight of the main desk so users could be supervised.
We hadn’t really had much of a problem with our public-access computers—aside from the occasional teenage boy trying to access certain sites that our security software prevented him from getting to. Still, it didn’t hurt to have Mary, who knew all the kids’ parents and grandparents, at the circulation desk while they tried to work their way around the latest firewall I’d installed.
“Larry should be here about nine thirty to do a test of the window alarms,” I reminded Mary and Abigail. They both made faces. The temporary security system that Larry Taylor was helping to install had an alarm that sounded like an air horn. “The board will be here at two for an update. And the quilters are using our meeting room because there’s water in the church basement.”
Mary took off her glasses and began cleaning them with the end of her sweater. “Kathleen, where are we going to entertain the board if the quilters are in our only meeting room?”
“I already thought of that,” I said. I held up a finger. “The quilters finish at one thirty. Give them fifteen minutes to gather their stuff.” I held up a second finger. “At one forty-five I give the room a quick vacuum and toss a cloth on the table. Mia will be here by then.” The teenager had started out as a co-op placement from the high school and now worked part-time for me. The little ones loved her Kool-Aid-colored hair and the seniors were charmed by her lovely manners.
I added a third finger to the first two. “Mia sets the table while I run back upstairs to make the tea, and at five to two I will be waiting, graciously, by the front desk.” I extended both hands with a flourish. “Ta-da!”
Abigail laughed. “All you need is one long-winded quilter and your whole plan falls apart.”
I narrowed my gaze at her. “O ye of little faith,” I said. “Do you remember those boxes of books that Pete Simmons brought us when he cleared out his mother’s house?”
“Eva was a quilter. There were several books about quilting in one of the cartons. Mary is going to ask the ladies to come out to the desk and take a look at them so we can decide if we should add any of them to our collection.” I raised one eyebrow at her in classic Mr. Spock–from–Star Trek style. “As I said, ta and da.”
“Very crafty of you,” Abigail countered with a grin.
I made a face at her pun and got to my feet. “Let’s get started, then,” I said.
It was a busy day. Rena Adler showed up just after we opened.
“Hi, Kathleen,” she said. “Is Margo here?” She was carrying a blue file folder and she tapped one edge of it with her fingers.
I shook my head. “Not yet.”
Rena made a face. She was a bit shorter than me, maybe five-five, in her black Dr. Martens, with her black hair in a twist. “She asked for my bio.” She held up the folder. “Would you mind giving it to her for me? I’m meeting Ruby at the co-op store in a few minutes.”
Rena had been staying in Mayville Heights all month. After they’d met, Ruby had recruited her for a painting workshop she was doing with a couple of art classes at the high school.
“I don’t mind at all,” I said. “Does Margo have a number for you in case she wants to talk to you about it?”
Rena smiled. Like Marcus, she had deep blue eyes and incredibly long eyelashes. “Yes, she does. She’s probably called me ten times just about the frames for my paintings.”
“Margo is very . . . exacting. But she cares about every piece in the show.”
She nodded. “You’re right about that.” She handed over the folder. “Thanks, Kathleen.”
“You’re welcome,” I said.
Rena left and I took the papers she’d given me upstairs. I’d meant what I’d said to her: Margo did care about every single painting and drawing in the exhibit. She wanted the local artwork to be seen at its best and she worried about what the change in conditions would do to the museum pieces. I felt certain that if the decision had been up to her, the library would never have been chosen as a venue.
Margo Walsh walked in at nine thirty with Larry Taylor. I caught enough of their conversation to know she wanted to move some of the new lights he’d installed.
Luckily, Larry, the younger of Harrison Taylor’s sons, was one of the most laid-back people I’d ever met. He smiled at me over the top of Margo’s head.
Margo Walsh was a tiny woman, five foot four or so only because of her four-inch heels. She wore her blond hair in a sleek bob with side-swept bangs.
“Good morning, Kathleen,” she said as she passed me, her head bent over her phone.
“Good morning,” I replied, but she was already past me, heels clicking on the mosaic tile floor. I walked over to Larry. “She wants to move those spotlights again,” I said.
He pulled off his ball cap and smoothed a hand over his blond hair. “That she does.”
I shook my head. “I’m sorry. I know working with Margo has been a bit of a challenge.”
Larry laughed. “The old man when he gets his shorts in a bunch over something—excuse my language—now, that’s a challenge.” He gestured toward the steps with one large hand. “Her, not so much.”
Larry’s father, Harrison Taylor Senior, was one of my favorite people in town. He was also, to use an expression from his other son, Harry Junior, as stubborn as a bear with a closed picnic basket.
I laid a hand on Larry’s arm. “How about a cup of Mary’s coffee in about half an hour?”
“I wouldn’t say no to that,” he said. He had the same warm smile as his father and brother. He headed toward the exhibit area, and I went upstairs to talk to Margo.
She was in the workroom that she’d taken over as a temporary office. She was dressed in slim black pants and one of her ubiquitous white shirts, the sleeves rolled back to her elbows. She turned when she heard me in the doorway. “Kathleen, I need a favor,” she said.
That was a change. Usually Margo left out the word “favor.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Do you know Oren Kenyon?”
I nodded. “Yes, I do. Oren did a lot of work on the restoration of this building.”
Margo leaned back against the worktable that she was using as a desk. “Maggie Adams told me he made the sun that’s over the entrance.”
“Yes, he did.”
Our library, like many others of its vintage, was a Carnegie library, built with funds donated by Scottish American industrialist Andrew Carnegie. The carved wooden sun Oren had made for the entrance was a nod to the first Carnegie library in Dunfermline, Scotland.
“The detail is incredible,” Margo said.
I wondered how she knew that. The sun was twelve feet in the air over the main doors.
She must have read the question on my face. “Lorenzo let me use his ladder.”
Lorenzo? Did she mean Larry Taylor? Why didn’t I know his full name was Lorenzo?
Margo was still talking. “I’ve heard that Mr. Kenyon has created a replica of this town’s seal done in the same way as the sunburst over your door.”
I’d heard that rumor, too, although I wasn’t sure if it was true or not. Oren didn’t talk a lot about what was going on in his life.
“It seems that he doesn’t have a cell phone.” She glanced over at her own smartphone, lying on the table next to her briefcase. “And I haven’t had any luck getting his home phone number, either. I asked Mary and somehow the conversation turned to how many third cousins she has in town.”
I bit the inside of my cheek so I wouldn’t laugh. If Mary didn’t want to tell you something, she could lead you into a conversational labyrinth.
Margo’s eyes flicked to the heavy, stainless steel watch on her left arm. “If the seal does exist and it’s as good as that sun, I’d love to have it in the exhibit. It fits with the overall theme of the other artwork: the history of this part of Minnesota.”
Oren was a very private person. His father, Karl Kenyon, was a frustrated artist, a metal sculptor who’d spent his whole life working as a laborer, dreaming of a different life. Oren had inherited his father’s artistic streak, but unlike Karl, Oren enjoyed his quiet, small-town life in Mayville Heights. He liked working on the old buildings, extending their lives or giving them new ones. He was an incredibly talented pianist as well as a skilled woodworker and he had no desire to do anything differently.
“I’ll talk to him,” I said. “I can’t promise he’ll say yes. But I will ask.” I knew that Oren was doing some work for Roma out at Wisteria Hill, her new home.
“Thank you.” Margo glanced at her phone again. Most of her focus was clearly somewhere else.
“I’ll be in my office if you need me,” I said.
She nodded without even looking in my direction and reached for a file folder on the table. I headed for my office, but before I got there I caught sight of Larry Taylor coming up the stairs.
“Kathleen, do you have a minute?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. “Is something wrong?”
He shook his head. “It just struck me that it might make more sense to put in a permanent fixture for the little spotlights Margo is talking about rather than doing something temporary. Cost-wise it’ll actually save you money, and Oren won’t have to patch the ceiling when this show is over.”
“Exactly how little are these spotlights?” I had a mental image of the computer room looking like the stage at the Stratton Theatre.
“That’s what I wanted to show you,” Larry said.
We started down to the main floor. I darted a quick sideways glance at Larry. “Lorenzo?” I asked, keeping my voice low.
His face flushed with color. “It’s a long story, Kathleen,” he said, ducking his head.
I held up one hand and smiled at him. “I love long stories.”
At that moment, behind me, I heard Margo Walsh call my name. At the same time Abigail came around the corner of the circulation desk. She raised a hand. “Kathleen, the reference computers have gone catawampus again.”
I blew out a long breath. I had a feeling it was going to be a long day.
And it was.
The spotlights Larry was proposing to install permanently were small and could be rotated 360 degrees, so I told him to go ahead and put them in, making a mental note to call Lita and tell her what I’d agreed to.
Margo had final (final, final) confirmation that the exhibit would be arriving Friday afternoon, which meant the library would be closed from one o’clock on Thursday until Saturday morning. Mary started making signs so our patrons would know what was going on, while Abigail dealt with a pile of books from the book drop and I tried to persuade the aging reference software on our even older computers to boot up for another day. I found myself thinking longingly of Rebecca’s muffins sitting on my desk.
In the end, one of those muffins and a large cup of coffee were all I had time to grab all day—I gave the other muffin to Larry, who worked through his own lunch—and that wasn’t until after the library board had left, all of them happy with the way the work for the exhibit was shaping up, and charmed by Margo and her genuine praise for the library and the town. She could certainly turn on the charm and tone down the nitpicking when it mattered.
I was very happy that Marcus had offered to cook supper for me. He’d also stopped in at my house to check on Owen and Hercules so I could drive directly out to his house when I left the library.
Micah met me at the door. The small marmalade tabby had appeared one day out at Wisteria Hill, the former Henderson estate that was now Roma’s home. She hadn’t been part of the feral colony of cats that called the old carriage house home. They had all been neutered as part of Roma’s trap-neuter-release program and were cared for by Roma and a group of volunteers that included Marcus and me. Roma’s best guess was that someone had simply dumped the little tabby near Wisteria Hill, maybe believing she could just join the other cats.
For months Roma had put out food for Micah; she had named her for the way the sunlight glinted off her ginger fur. She’d also erroneously said that Micah was a he. Marcus was the one who had first noticed that the very cautious cat was in fact a she, something he’d gently teased Roma about.
Just as Owen and Hercules, who were also from Wisteria Hill, had bonded with me, Micah had bonded with Marcus. Roma was certain she had had a home somewhere before Wisteria Hill. She was happy to let other people stroke her fur or scratch under her chin. If anyone other than me tried that with Owen or Hercules they would go from charming house cats to Tasmanian devils in about a second and a half.
There was no sign of Marcus, but something smelled wonderful. Micah wound around my legs and I bent and picked her up.
“Lasagna?” I asked.
“Merow,” she said.
The cat tipped her head to one side and looked at me, whiskers twitching. Her sense of smell was as good as Owen’s.
“I brought you something,” I said quietly. I pulled a small bag of the same sardine kitty treats I made for my own cats out of my pocket. I took two out and held out my hand.
Micah made a soft thank-you meow before leaning over to eat one of the small crackers.
“You’re spoiling my cat,” Marcus said behind me.
I turned around to face him. “Look who’s talking,” I said with a laugh. Marcus had snuck so many “treats” to Owen and Hercules, Roma had finally given him a stern lecture about what constituted “cat food” and what didn’t.
Micah took the other cracker from my hand and I reached over and stroked the top of her head. “And she’s not spoiled. She’s an angel cat.”
As if she’d understood every word I’d just said, Micah leaned her furry face against my cheek. We both looked up at Marcus.
He laughed and shook his head. Then he leaned down and gave me a quick kiss and ran his hand over the little cat’s fur.
I handed him the bag of fish crackers and put Micah down on the floor. She licked crumbs off her whiskers and looked up at Marcus.
“One,” he said, his voice edged with warning.
The cat bobbed her head as if in agreement. I knew he’d give her more than that and so did she.
Marcus opened the bag and fished out two crackers. He bent down and held them out to the cat, who took them both in her mouth and then set them on the floor.
He brushed his hands on his jeans, straightened up and pulled me into his arms for another, longer kiss. I still felt the same rush of giddiness I’d felt the first time he’d kissed me, standing out in the driveway next to my old truck.
“How was your day?” he asked.
“Long,” I said, pulling off my jacket and hanging it and my purse over the back of one of the kitchen chairs.
Marcus turned to look at the timer on the stove. “Are you hungry?” he asked.
My stomach growled loudly then, as if in answer to his question.
“You skipped lunch again,” he said, reaching for an oversize pair of oven mitts. I noticed that he hadn’t phrased his comment in the form of a question.
“No, I didn’t,” I said, just a little defensively, as I pulled out a chair and sat down. “I had one of Rebecca’s muffins.”
“A muffin is not lunch,” Marcus countered. He opened the oven door, mumbled something and closed it again.
“It was a big muffin.”
He turned to look at me then, and I gave him my best innocent expression. It was the same kind of look Owen gave me, generally when I’d caught him doing something he shouldn’t have been. It worked about as well on Marcus as it did when Owen used it on me.
“Kathleen, this is the third time in the last week and a half that you’ve missed lunch.”
Actually, it was the fourth, but I wasn’t stupid enough to correct him. Micah was at my feet, looking from one to the other of us as though she was following the conversation. For all I knew, maybe she was.
Marcus waved an oven mitt at me. “I’m bringing you lunch tomorrow.”
“Leftover lasagna?” I asked. That was assuming there was any left over by the time I’d finished my supper.
“How did you know I made lasagna?”
“Merow,” Micah said then. She had the same uncanny sense of timing that both Owen and Hercules seemed to possess.
“She told me,” I said, gesturing at the little cat and trying to keep a straight face.
Marcus set a multicolored pottery bowl of salad on the table. “The cat told you that we’re having lasagna?”
I shrugged. “I asked. She confirmed.”
Once again, the “meow” was perfectly timed.
“See?” I said.
I gestured at the little marmalade tabby. “She seems happy here.”
He nodded. “I actually took her over to Roma today. She’s gained a little weight.” He smiled. “I mean the cat, not Roma.” He went back to the refrigerator for the salad dressing, his own secret concoction. I’d been trying for months to wheedle the recipe out of him.
I watched Marcus move around the kitchen for a moment, just enjoying the view, so to speak. “Does she still think that Micah was abandoned?” I asked. The little cat leaned against my leg and I bent forward to pet her, wondering how anyone could have left her out at Wisteria Hill to fend for herself.
“Uh-huh,” Marcus said. “And it makes sense. All the carriage house cats have been neutered. And she’s definitely socialized.” He gestured at Micah, still leaning against my leg, eyes half closed, purring as I stroked her ginger-colored fur.
“I’m glad you decided to take her,” I said.
He smiled. “I think it was more like you and Roma decided I should take her.”
I smiled back at him. “Potato, potahto.”
He grinned as he turned back to the stove.
“There’s no way I could have taken her,” I said. “As it is, Owen and Hercules are squabbling over—” I exhaled loudly and shook my head. “I don’t know what. Bacon, possibly.”
Marcus took the lasagna out of the oven and set it on a tile trivet on the countertop. “Bacon?” he asked, glancing back over his shoulder at me.
I thought about Hercules eating Everett’s treat with what had seemed to me to be a somewhat smug expression on his furry black-and-white face. “Maybe,” I said. “Hercules has been eating bacon nearly every morning with Everett, and Owen loves bacon almost as much as he loves Maggie. But he’s slow in the morning. I think it’s just sibling jealousy, although you may be called in at some point to investigate the decapitation of one Fred the Funky Chicken.”
“You know, Micah may not be a true Wisteria Hill cat, but I think she’s one in spirit,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. The lasagna smelled wonderful and my stomach growled audibly again. It had been a long time since Rebecca’s muffin.
“You know how Owen is always sneaking into your truck?” Marcus reached for the plates on the counter.
“Uh-huh,” I said slowly. Marcus didn’t know about the boys’ “superpowers,” so he didn’t know that Owen was able to “sneak” into my truck by making himself invisible.
He tipped his head in Micah’s direction. “She’s done the same thing to me. Twice I was halfway to work before I realized that she was sitting on the backseat.”
I felt the hairs rise on the back of my neck. “Really?” I said slowly. “You didn’t see her jump in the back?”
“I didn’t even see her follow me out of the house.” He set a steaming plate in front of me and leaned down to give the top of Micah’s head a little scratch. “I guess she shares that stealth-ninja gene with Owen.”
“I guess she does.” I stared down at the cat, who looked up innocently at me and then began to wash her face.
It wasn’t possible. Micah didn’t share Owen’s ability. I was overreacting, I told myself sternly as I unfolded my napkin. Over. Re. Acting.
If I repeated the words enough times, maybe I’d start to believe them.
Mia was waiting by the main entrance when I pulled into the parking lot in the morning. She had convinced both her history and art teachers to let her shadow Margo, which meant that she’d been Margo’s unpaid grunt on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for the previous two weeks.
I pulled up the hood of my raincoat and sprinted across the pavement, dodging the puddles, grateful for my new red rubber boots. Once we were inside, Mia pushed back her own hood and I got a good look at her hair, which was now lime Jell-O green.
“I like your hair,” I said.
She smiled shyly. “Thank you.” Then she took her coat out into the entryway and shook it over the rubber mat. Mia was a study in contrasts. Her hair was always some neon crayon color, but she dressed conservatively. Today she was wearing a black pencil skirt with black tights and a pale blue shirt.
I smoothed a hand over my own hair, which I had pulled back into a low ponytail. “Maybe I’ll go green,” I said.
Excerpted from "Faux Paw"
Copyright © 2015 Sofie Kelly.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the New York Times bestselling Magical Cat mysteries
“Sofie Kelly is a brilliant storyteller…one of my favorite cozy series.”—Socrates’ Book Reviews
“Owen and Hercules are a delight.”—Kings River Life Magazine
“A charming cat duo.”—The Mystery Reader
“Cats with magic powers, a library, good friends who look out for each other and small-town coziness come together in perfect unison. If you are a fan of Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks mysteries you will want to read [this series].”—MyShelf.com
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
It's so nice to have a lot of cozies available in one place to sample....cozies are my tranquilizer,my before bed time sleep aid of choice...no bad side effects!
I would have gave this whole series 5+ stars IF the stories were longer! I just looked back & realized this Is The SIXTH BOOK in this series & I find it hard to swollow that I paid 8 dollars a piece for each one & I flew thur em. The stories are really good I just hare that I have to come out sounding like a Bitter Betty. I think 5 or 6 is more than enough for these cozies. Everyone wud still make plenty. Rhop XO
I have really enjoyed this series. Fun, romantic, and a good mystery to go with it. Looking forward to the next one!
Not the best of the series. A bit slow.
Dollycas’s Thoughts Owen and Hercules are feuding while their person librarian Kathleen Paulson deals with all the details and extra security needed to host an art exhibition at the library. She never expected to find the event coordinator, Margo Walsh, dead on the floor of her office just days before the exhibition was set to open. Margo was a difficult person to get along with but she must have really pushed someone over the edge for them to kill her. Oh and someone also stole a valuable piece of artwork from the collection too. Kathleen can’t reopen the library until the killer and the drawing is found so she is doing some investigating herself, of course, wink, wink, she is passing information along to her boyfriend Marcus to help him build a case. Returning to Mayville Heights is like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers. The cats are up to mischief with pieces of Fred the Funky Chicken everywhere. Hercules is just to trying to get Owen upset and Owen doing a bit of retaliation. Micah is settling in well with Marcus but Kathleen believes this little feline as her own magical ways. We will have to see how that story develops. Marcus and Kathleen relationship is moving along nicely. BUT things at the library are very chaotic. Added security, special lighting, moving things around to have enough space, plus all the ordinary patrons coming and going. Then there is a turn when Margo is found dead, Kathleen doesn’t even realize anything had been stolen right away. When she does she uses all her talents, internet searches, asking leading questions, etc. to try to get a handle on the suspects and there are many. Sofie Kelly really has created a great mystery for Kathleen to solve and in turn us readers. I enjoy Kathleen’s process and I fully understand her talking out loud to her cats and them giving her little nudges along the way. They are magical and very intuitive. My animals are not magical at all, thankfully they can’t walk through closed doors or make themselves invisible, but they are great companions and I talk to them all the time. It helps to put things in perspective when things are said out loud. Don’t judge, if you are an animal lover I know you talk to your pets too! So you have a great place to visit in Mayville Heights and it’s wonderful library, an abundance of fantastic human characters, some delightful and magical felines and a captivating mystery to solve. You also know there are more than a few funny moments. There may be some faux things in the midst of this story but it is a genuinely marvelous cozy. Clearly deserving 5 PAWS, I mean STARfish!
Yet another great mystery. I love this whole series. Hercules and Owen are the best characters. I can just picture their mannerisms and facial expressions and it makes me giggle. The human characters, like Kathleen and Marcus, are great too, but it's hard to be more entertaining than the cats. The mystery is good too. I enjoy the twists and turns of the investigation. Every time I think I have it figured out it turns out I was wrong. I was kept guessing right up until the very end. I can't wait for the next story in the series!
Great Series! This is a great series; this is the seventh book in the A Magical Cats Mystery series by Sofie Kelly. Our favorite magical cats Owen and Hercules are back with another great book. Kathleen Paulson is a librarian at the Mayville Heights library. The curator for the art exhibition at the library is overbearing and is making Kathleen’s life crazy. When Kathleen stops by the library late one night she finds the curator’s body and a valuable sketch missing. Kathleen, her detective boyfriend and the cats set off to find the killer. If you are looking for a great mystery that will leave you guessing until the end then you need to read this book and series. I can’t wait to read the next book in this series. A Review copy was provided to me in exchange for a fair and honest review. The free book held no determination on my personal review.
Author Sofie Kelly has penned another enchanting installment in the Magical Cat Mystery series. Cats Hercules and Owen were at their mischievous and delightful best. Their antics in pages one through six alone had me literally laughing out loud. The plot in FAUX PAW is a wonderful story that is flawlessly written. So many twist and turns! The way Ms. Kelly crafted this mystery was so well done. She kept the story intriguing while managing to inject humor at just the right moments without breaking the spell of the whodunit. I was mesmerized all the way to the reveal. Cozy mystery fans and/or cat lovers are going to love FAUX PAW. Returning fans to the series are going to be thrilled with this addition to an already excellent series. My one complaint, and I direct it to author Sofie Kelly – How can you mention maple crème cupcakes and not include a recipe?! ;-)
Faux Paw is the seventh book in the A Magical Cats Mystery series. Kathleen is excited that the Maryville Heights library is getting a very impressive art exhibit to put on display. In addition, some local artist have some of their works on display, too. She would be even more excited if she didn't have to deal with a very demanding curator, Margo Walsh. In fact, Margo wanted perfection from everyone she came in contact with, but it seems that her thoughts on perfection kept changing. So when Kathleen came back to the library one night, no one was particularly sorry that she was she was found dead. In addition, a particular valuable picture was stolen at the same time. With the most sophisticated electronic equipment available at the library, everyone is thinking that it had to be an inside job. Since this tragic event took place at “her” library, Kathleen feels compelled to involve herself in the investigation. Most of the recurring characters are back once again to help with the investigation and also to serve as a sounding board for Kathleen's ideas. Of course, the adorable cats, Hercules and Owen to provide some humorous times, oh yes, and to provide a helpful clue to Kathleen. Will be watching for the next book in this fun series.