Mimi Lee Cracks the Code

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code

by Jennifer J. Chow
Mimi Lee Cracks the Code

Mimi Lee Cracks the Code

by Jennifer J. Chow


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One of BookRiot's Best Upcoming Cozy Mysteries for the Second Half of 2021!

When murder follows Mimi Lee to her romantic island getaway, she puts on her best sleuthing hat with her sassy cat in tow in this adventurous cozy mystery by Jennifer J. Chow.

Mimi Lee just found an extra perk to being a pet groomer at Hollywoof (other than cuddling animals all day long, that is). Pixie St. James, one of Mimi’s clients and the investor behind Hollywoof, has offered her and her boyfriend, Josh, a getaway at her vacation home, nestled on beautiful Catalina Island. With the island just outside of Los Angeles but still far enough from the hustle and bustle, Mimi, Josh, and their cat Marshmallow (who, of course, wouldn’t be caught dead in a dingy pet hotel) are excited for their relaxing stay.
That is, until Pixie’s last renter, Davis D. Argo, turns up dead. Mimi and Josh’s romantic getaway immediately turns into an enormous buzzkill, especially when Pixie asks Mimi for help. The police suspect Pixie, and Mimi knows a thing or two about wrongful allegations. Mimi figures it couldn’t hurt to snoop a little since she’s already there, and soon discovers that a valuable item is missing. Except Pixie isn’t the only one in the neighborhood who has been robbed. There is something strange happening on the island, and Mimi won’t stop until she finds out what it is.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781984805034
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/30/2021
Series: A Sassy Cat Mystery , #3
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 265,427
Product dimensions: 8.10(w) x 5.40(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Jennifer J. Chow grew up reading Garfield comics and adores creating sassy kit lit. She also writes the Winston Wong mysteries, which feature a regular meowing cat. Her other Asian American novels include Dragonfly Dreams (a Teen Vogue pick) and The 228 Legacy.

Read an Excerpt





Ah . . . The trademarks of a Los Angeles summer day, an intoxicating combo of scented tropical sunscreen and giddy laughter, came through the open door. I spied pedestrians strolling across the palm tree-lined plaza through the plate-glass window of my pet grooming salon, Hollywoof. They must have been heading to the nearby beach because they wore variations of swim attire, from the tiniest scraps of bikinis to thick blanket cover-ups with wide straw hats perched on top of their heads.


A loud bark refocused my attention on my canine collie customer. The Lassie look-alike rested a few feet away from her celebrity twin's golden star embedded in the floor-my shop had its own Bark of Fame walkway. The collie also stood a careful distance away from my dozing Persian cat, Marshmallow, who liked to nap and protect his coveted sunny spot.


This would be a short appointment, since the dog's owner had requested a quick styling session. The woman sat on a cream pleather bench in the waiting area, uninterested in the doggie film showing on the large-screen TV across the way. She flicked through a glossy magazine in a lazy manner. When she crossed her legs, the multiple sterling silver anklets she wore chimed gently with the movement.


I nodded to my colleague, Nicola, who sat near the cash register, to let her know I'd be going to the back room with the dog. However, in the throes of TGIF laziness, she seemed enamored with her phone and kept scrolling on it, not bothering to glance up. She might have been hard at work looking for the latest casting call. The searchlight that aimed down on the reception area highlighted her classic beauty, as if she were on stage. Her gazelle-like stature and beautiful symmetrical face really should have been a shoo-in for callbacks, although she said her bulbous nose gave her "bad luck" and ruined her chances of being a movie star. I thought that if she could deliver her lines with more emotion, she could've gotten cast.


I walked the collie down the hallway past the side room with its holding space of crates, ready for extra animals to wait in during our busiest of days. We entered the back area where I kept my professional grooming equipment. I passed by the stainless steel sink because the dog didn't need a wash, but I hooked her leash on to one of the grooming tables. Using a pin brush, I fluffed up her luxurious fur. Before too long, I'd managed to create a hairstyle that would've rivaled the best blowout.


When I returned to the front room, the dog's owner snapped shut her magazine and blew a kiss at the dog with her red lacquered lips. From her purse, she pulled out a spray bottle labeled "Purified rose water." She spritzed her collie and rubbed her hand against the dog's fur. "There, much better. Looks less puffy like that and more beach-tousled."


Marshmallow woke at the woman's commenting. He yawned and examined my handiwork. "Wow, Mimi. You really nailed the bedhead look."


I choked back a laugh. I'd gotten used to Marshmallow's sassy personality over time. And his telepathic ability. When he'd first been given to me by my younger sister, Alice, I figured I'd been overly stressed by opening Hollywoof and had imagined his voice in my head. Turns out he actually had a knack for "speaking human." Though I'd never quite mastered cat language, which meant I still had to address him out loud. Not that I'd let anyone see me talking to a cat. I'd never even told my family or boyfriend about Marshmallow's special talent.


The collie's owner went over to the cash register. She had to tap her long fingernails against the glass jar of homemade dog biscuits to get Nicola's attention. Nicola immediately dropped her phone and served the customer.


The lady and her dog passed by me as they headed toward the exit. "Thanks for the furstyle," she said.


When she exited, the bell above my store's door rang out with a loud jangle.


"She didn't leave a tip," Nicola said and frowned. "Figures. Reminds me of my old job." She used to be an assistant to a famous producer's wife, Lauren Dalton, and she'd hated being treated like a doormat.


"Well, it's a new day," I said. "A beautiful one at that. Look at the amazing sunshine streaming through the window." It did look a little like molten gold from this angle.


Nicola rolled her neck, making the stretching appear like an elegant dance, complete with fluttering swan arms. "I'm incorporating more dancing into everyday motions. I think it'll help with me getting cast."


I had my doubts about that, and I also saw Marshmallow twitching his whiskers in amusement.


"Mimi, I'm going outside to practice some more moves in the plaza," Nicola said. "Besides, we're almost closed for lunch anyway."


I enforced a mandatory break hour starting at noon. The perks of being the boss of my own business. Although I wouldn't have started my shop without a healthy infusion of cash from Hollywoof's benefactor, Pixie St. James. "Dance away," I said to Nicola.


She nodded and skipped out the door while waving jazz hands.


Marshmallow puffed out his white fur. "So, what are we having for lunch, Mimi?"


I shrugged at him. "I'm eating a mini chicken pot pie. You had a large breakfast, so I think you'll be fine. Plus, Dr. Exi talked about your weight on our last visit."


"What does that man know?"


"He is a vet."


Before we could argue any more, the bell above the door jingled. Oops, I'd forgotten to lock up. I'd have to tell this customer about our schedule. Some newcomers didn't realize we took a lunch break. However, when I checked on the visitor, it was someone I recognized and had been thinking about only moments earlier.


"Pixie," I said and greeted her with a hug. She smelled of her usual signature pumpkin spice fragrance.


After the embrace, though, I held her at arm's length. "You look refreshed." Her brown hair appeared professionally styled, but she wasn't wearing her typical pantsuit. Instead, she'd opted for a flowing white summer dress, which made her tanned skin all the more prominent in contrast.


"I've been to the island," she said.


"Which one? Catalina?" Less than an hour away by ferry, it was a haven for Angelenos. In fact, I'd met Pixie there last summer when I'd saved her shih tzu from the choppy waves. She, in gratitude, had given me the capital to start up this business.


"Of course. And I brought you a little something from my travels. Actually, it's for Marshmallow." She winked at him.


"Finally, some acknowldgement," he said, as he crept up close to her.


Pixie bent down and gave him a love pat on the head. Then she pulled a fish-shaped toy out of her purse and dropped it on the ground before him. It must've triggered something since the toy started quivering.


"Is it going to move? Will he need to chase it?" I asked.


My cat stuck his nose in the air. "An exercise toy. How could you have read me so wrong, Pixie?"


"Great," I said to Pixie with a straight face. "He needs to work some layers off."


Pixie's lips formed a surprised circle. "Oh no, Mimi, this device is for you to operate. It's a fish-shaped cat massager so you can pamper him. I remember how much he loved that massage mat at my place."


Marshmallow yowled with mirth. "Now that's the ticket, sister."


I picked up the trembling fish with its massaging bumps, and turned it off. "I'll save this for some other time," I said, going behind the counter and dropping it into my purse.


Marshmallow growled. "You're on lunch break right now. Plenty of time to give me a good massage."


I ignored him. "Have a seat," I said to Pixie, gesturing to the pleather benches.


She smoothed out her dress and sat down on one bench, and I leaned back on the other. Marshmallow decided to jump up next to me and curl up there, ready to listen in on our conversation.


"Was your trip for business or pleasure?" I asked. As CEO of her own tech company, Pixie worked hard, and she'd been known to schmooze with her clients at different locations. I'd run into her at a country club once and wouldn't be surprised if some important client had asked her to meet in Catalina for a round of golf.


"Both," she said, giving me a wide smile. "A few months ago, I closed escrow on a house in Catalina. I've been renting it out as a vacation home and was just meeting up with my property manager."


"A place in Catalina." I whistled. "That's a nice investment."


Her brown eyes glowed with enthusiasm. "Yes, and I can have a second home to visit anytime I want. Or to lend to friends."


"That's super generous of you."


"In fact"-she leaned forward and clasped my hands-"I had a sudden cancellation in the middle of next week. You know, it's really hard to get a spot around July Fourth. Why don't you stay there for a few days, all expenses paid by me? Consider it as an early anniversary celebration of Hollywoof's opening."


"Wow." My words left me. I'd love to have a vacation, and Catalina was such a serene place. I could probably close shop for a short period, or maybe Nicola could run it while I was gone.


"So, what do you say?" Pixie asked.


"I'd love to," I said, dreaming about a romantic getaway with Josh. "Could I maybe take a guest?"


"I thought you'd never ask," Marshmallow said. He nudged my side and trained his charming baby blue eyes on me.


I stroked him. Well, I could humor my cat for the time being. "Maybe two guests . . ."


Pixie tapped her chin with her forefinger. "Bringing your cat along is an excellent idea. As Marshmallow explores the old house, you can jot down detailed notes. I'll make sure everything is cat-safe and then I can advertise the place as pet-friendly."


Before we could figure out any more details, Pixie's phone rang. She frowned at the caller ID. "Odd. I don't recognize the number."


I watched as she excused herself and stood closer to the front door. "Yes, this is Pixie St. James."


She mumbled, "Sorry, the name doesn't ring a bell."


Pacing back and forth, she said, "I'm afraid I can't be of help."


She hung up the phone and turned to me with a slight frown. "I don't know why some woman would be contacting me about a stranger I've never even heard of."


From beside me, Marshmallow gave a soft hiss of sympathetic outrage.


"Anyway"-she pasted a bright smile on her face-"can you check with Josh on his availability? Once you two agree, I'll arrange all the details."



Focused on telling Josh the exciting news after work, I spent the afternoon in a whirlwind of doggie sudsy baths, blueberry facials, and stylish headbands. Before I knew it, the clock had struck six, and I strapped Marshmallow into his carrier to make our way home. The 405 freeway yielded no major traffic hiccups (a welcome change of pace), and I made it home by seven.


¥ ¥ ¥


Since Josh and I were neighbors, I figured I could easily find him in our shared complex, Seaview Apartments. However, I didn't see Josh's vehicle in the communal carport parking area. Not that it should surprise me. He usually worked long nights at the law office to get in all those billable hours.


After getting some fast Chinese food delivery from Wok On, I ate my dinner perched on my IKEA couch. Thank goodness the fabric was washable because sweet-and-sour sauce wouldn't complement the lime green color.


I kept glancing out the window at the courtyard, an open area with a few potted ferns, waiting for Josh to appear. Finally, I saw him cross the space to head toward his apartment, unit number one. I grabbed a few wrapped fortune cookies to go and ran out the door-but not before Marshmallow slipped through the closing crack. "Someone's gotta chaperone you kids," he said.


"Jealous much?" I asked as I smoothed down my wrinkled T-shirt with the image of a dabbing dog.


I called out Josh's name before he could enter his apartment. Not that I minded the back view of him.


When he turned around at the sound of my voice, my heart skipped a beat. Ever since the day we'd met in the laundry room of our complex, I still grew excited each time I saw him.


"Mimi," he said, his voice brightening with pleasure. He paused. "And my man, Marshmallow."


My cat curved his tail into a question mark. "I'll try to take that as a compliment."


"Come on in," Josh said, unlocking his door and opening it wide.


Marshmallow and I entered Josh's tidy apartment. I didn't know how he could live so neatly. I'd never seen any dirty laundry in sight, and sparkling clean plates always sat lined up in a bamboo dish rack. His living space also gave off a whiff of his signature scent, a heady dose of pine.


"Make yourself at home," Josh said, waving his hand around.


"Don't mind if I do," Marshmallow said, making his way over to the dining table featuring an outline of the humuhumunukunukuapua'a fish. He curled up on one of the chairs there.


I took a seat beside my cat and traced one of the scales on the table. The detailed wooden furniture replica was a loving gift from Josh's parents to remind him of his home state of Hawaii, where the two of them still resided. "We won't stay long, Josh," I said. "I just wanted to give you a special invite in person."


"To what?" He stood near me, and I raised my head to take in his curious gaze.


"Pixie bought a house on Catalina Island, a vacation home. She invited us to stay there for a few days and check out the island."


"A vacation together?" His voice dipped low and intimate.


Marshmallow growled.


I gave Josh a sheepish grin. "Kind of. But I told Pixie I'd take Marshmallow, too. She wanted to make sure the house is pet-friendly enough and market it as such. She's already renting it out to people, but there was a last-minute cancellation for next week."


Josh draped his arm around me. "Sounds wonderful."


I bit the inside of my cheek. "The only thing is the open dates land at the beginning of the week."


"Well, then I'll have to work doubly hard and shift my schedule around." Josh removed his arm from my shoulder to pull out his phone and examine his calendar app.

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