Sarah Grayson and her feline ally, Elvis, get a chance to see if their sleuthing skills are up to scratch in the sixth installment of the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries.
It's fall in North Harbor, Maine, where Sarah owns a charming secondhand shop and sells lovingly refurbished items of all kinds. The shop is always bustlingand not just because a quirky team of senior-citizen detectives works out of it and manages to get in even more trouble than Sarah's rough-and-tumble rescue cat, Elvis.
A cold case heats up when young Mallory Pearson appears at the shop. Mallory's father is in prison for negligence after her stepmother's mysterious death, but Mallory believes he is innocent and asks the in-house detectives to take on the case. With Sarah and Elvis lending a paw, the detectives decide to try to give Mallory's father a second chance of his own.
About the Author
Sofie Ryan is the author of the New York Times bestselling Second Chance Cat Mysteries. She also writes the New York Times bestselling Magical Cats Mystery series under the name Sofie Kelly.
Read an Excerpt
The first thing I saw when I made it to the back wall of the storage unit was Elvis, sitting on top of a wooden casket. He looked at me, cocking his head to one side, and his expression seemed to say, Look what I found!
"Good grief, what's that doing in here?" I said.
He didn't answer. Not that I expected him to, seeing as he was a small, black cat and not the swivel-hipped King of Rock and Roll.
I reached up and ran my hand over the smooth surface of the long wooden box. When I'd bought the contents of the storage space-and a second one three doors down-I'd given things a cursory check, just enough to feel comfortable about making an offer. The fact that the owner of the building had taken that offer without haggling had made me wish I'd offered a little less. At the time, I hadn't spotted the coffin-that's definitely what it was-sitting on several wooden packing crates by the end wall.
"Hey, Sarah, you all right?" my brother Liam called. He'd come along as muscle to help me load my SUV and the trailer it was pulling. He'd been in town for several days, consulting on the harbor front development project.
"I'm fine," I said, raising my voice a little so he could hear me. "You won't believe what Elvis found."
"Let me guess. The real Elvis in one of those white jumpsuits?"
The cat Elvis, who as far as he was concerned was the real Elvis, wrinkled his nose as though he'd understood Liam's words.
"Ha-ha. Very funny," I said. "No, he found a coffin." I looked around for Charlotte but couldn't see her. Charlotte Elliot worked for me part-time. She was also one of my grandmother's closest friends, which was how she'd ended up with a job at my shop.
"Ha-ha. Very funny back at you," Liam retorted. I could hear him moving boxes and furniture out of the way as he made his way to me.
"I'm not joking. It has to be at least six feet long. I think someone made it."
"It's probably just some big wooden box." He gave a grunt of effort and I saw a stack of boxes behind me shift sideways.
"There's a cross carved on the top and there are four handles on the side. It's a casket."
Liam poked his head above a six-foot-long metal toboggan that was blocking his way and grinned at me. He was a shade over six feet himself, with blond hair and blue-gray eyes. "You better hope the person who rented this space wasn't trying to save money in other ways besides not paying for the last six months." He craned his neck and studied the wooden box. "Assuming that's not the person who rented the space in the first place."
There was an orange foam football sitting on an upside-down wooden chair that looked like it had been wrapped in zebra-print duct tape. I threw the football at his head. It bounced off his left shoulder and landed near his feet.
"Your elbow's too high," he said. "Your arm should be making a right angle."
I stuck out my tongue at him.
Elvis's curiosity seemed to be getting the better of him. He scratched at the edge of the wooden box then looked at me.
"You're right," I said. "We should take a look inside, but you'll have to move." I picked him up and put him on the seat of the flipped-over chair. My hair was coming loose from the ponytail I'd pulled it into when we'd arrived at the warehouse. I yanked the elastic loose, raked my fingers through my hair and refastened it.
"You're not really going to look inside that thing, are you?" Liam asked.
"It's pretty much the only way we're going to find out what's in there." I looked over my shoulder at him. "And by the way, if that box actually does have an occupant they'll hear me scream over at the shop."
Liam snatched the foam football from the floor. "I'm ready to protect you," he said, a grin pulling at the corners of his mouth.
"Good to know that if there's a zombie inside you'll bean him with a perfect spiral," I said dryly.
He traced a finger down the outside of his left arm. "Note the perfect right angle, which is what will enable me to throw that perfect spiral, should it become necessary, baby sister." Liam-who was technically my stepbrother-was a month older and never let me forget it.
I laughed and shook my head. He was such a smartass.
Then I hooked my fingers under the thin edge of the lid, blew out a breath and lifted. Elvis craned his neck to see. We exchanged a look.
"So?" Liam couldn't see the inside of the casket from where he was standing.
"Well, I wasn't expecting this," I said. The cat murped his agreement, whiskers twitching.
"Expecting what?" Liam asked impatiently.
I glanced over my shoulder at him again.
He looked at me with one raised eyebrow. "I was only kidding before about someone actually being-" He stopped for a moment. "There isn't, is there?"
"It's full of tea," I said.
"Tea?" His eyes darted from side to side and a frown knotted his forehead.
"Uh-huh," I said. "Boxes of tea, lots of them. And two, maybe three, Pendleton blankets." I ran my hand over the soft, cream-colored wool with the traditional green, red, yellow and black stripes at the border. "We shouldn't have any problem selling these in the shop."
My business, Second Chance, was a cross between a vintage store and a secondhand shop. We sold everything from furniture to dishes to guitars-mostly things from the fifties through the seventies. Some of our stock had been repurposed from its original use: a side table made from an old library card catalog cabinet or a lawyer's bookcase turned nightstand. But much of it just needed someone to appreciate its beauty.
The store was located in an old red brick house from the late 1800s, at the edge of downtown North Harbor, Maine. We were maybe a fifteen- to twenty-minute walk from the harbor front and not far from the off-ramp for the highway, which meant we were easy for tourists to get to.
As a kid I'd spent my summers in North Harbor with my grandmother, my dad's mom. It was where my father had grown up. Eventually I'd bought a house that I'd renovated and rented. For several years I was the host of a late-night syndicated radio show that featured classic rock music. When the media company that owned my station and seven others changed hands, I was replaced by a music feed from California and a nineteen-year-old with a tan and ombre hair who gave the temperature every hour. I'd landed on Gram's doorstep, at the urging of my mom, to try to figure out what I wanted to do next. I'd ended up staying in North Harbor and opening Second Chance.
I picked up one of the boxes of tea and checked the label for the best-before date. "Hey, this is good for another six months."
"You're not really going to drink that stuff, are you?" Liam asked.
"Sarah, what brand of tea is it?" Charlotte called.
"Red Rose," I said.
"Proper tea bags?" Charlotte took her tea very seriously.
"As far as I can tell."
"And how many tea bags are there in the box?"
I turned it over in my hands. "Seventy-two." I looked at the other boxes packed carefully in the wooden casket. "There must be a dozen boxes here at least."
Charlotte appeared then behind Liam. She was wearing a chambray shirt with the sleeves rolled up. She reminded me of actress Helen Mirren. She was tall with lovely posture and white hair cut in a sleek, chin-length bob.
"And a red box," she said, beaming at me. "Splendid!"
"Why does the color of the box matter?" Liam asked, a look of puzzlement on his face.
"Because it tells me that it's Canadian Red Rose tea," Charlotte said.
I nodded because I knew what she meant. Liam didn't. He frowned. "And the nationality of the tea is important because?"
"Because it's orange pekoe, which is Rose's favorite," I said.
Rose Jackson was another of my grandmother's longtime friends, a tiny dynamo in sensible shoes. She also worked for me part-time. She swore the Canadian version of Red Rose tea made a very different cup from the tea the company sold here. Any time we went "across the lines," as she called a trip over the US/Canadian border, our first stop was always a grocery store so Rose could replenish her stash. I knew she'd be tickled with this find.
Rose was also like a second grandmother to me and to Liam. She doted on him and he in turn would do anything for her, including, it turned out, carry a six-foot coffin outside and strap it to the trailer attached to the back of my SUV.
"I have a feeling I'd like whoever rented this storage unit," Charlotte said, putting her arm around my shoulders. "He or she was clearly a very practical person." She patted the top of the casket. "Short-term storage for now and long-term storage for later. Very sensible."
Liam rolled his eyes and Charlotte winked at me.
"You're not going to actually sell that thing in the store, are you?" he asked.
"I'm not sure," I said. "We've sold some pretty odd things." I nudged Charlotte with my hip. "Do you remember that suit of armor?"
"I most certainly do," she said with a smile. "I'm the one who cleaned and polished it. And don't forget about those department-store mannequins."
I nodded in agreement. The life-sized figures had come from a department store that had gone out of business. To my amazement it turned out there were people who collected old department store mannequins. After a short stint in our front window as members of the band KISS-part of our Halloween window display-the four figures had been disassembled, packed and shipped to a man in northern Michigan.
I studied the long wooden box. "This may be pushing it, though," I said. "But I'm pretty sure Avery will be able to come up with a way to use this in the front-window display for Halloween."
"Whatever she does it will be creative," Charlotte said. "You know she's been painting pumpkins black, don't you?"
I nodded. "She asked me for black paint, cheesecloth and twinkle lights. I don't have any doubt that window will be creative."
Avery wasn't one of my grandmother's friends. She was, however, the granddaughter of one of them, Elizabeth Emmerson Kiley French, aka Liz. The teen had come to live with her grandmother after some issues at home. Avery went to a progressive private school that only had classes in the morning. In the afternoon she worked for me, a setup that had turned out well for everyone.
Liam had wrapped the long wooden box in a couple of padded moving blankets. He checked the tension on the bungee cords holding it in place on the trailer and then straightened up, brushing off his hands. "You know Christmas is coming and Dad does like practical presents," he began with a teasing smile.
I shook my head emphatically. "No. We are not giving Dad a casket for Christmas."
He cocked his head to one side. "I'm serious. You know how hard it is to figure out what to get for him." The gleam in his blue-gray eyes told me he wasn't really that serious.
"No," I said once more. "We're not giving our father a gift that says Merry Christmas, Peace on Earth, Is your will up to date?" I held up one hand before he could say anything else. "However, as you like to remind me, you are older than I am, so if you want it, consider it yours."
I'd seen Liam set the foam football on top of a cardboard carton in the trailer before he grabbed the bungee cords, so I was ready when he launched it in my direction. I snagged the ball out of the air and did my end-zone victory dance, which I admit looks a lot like the Bird Dance. Then I handed the ball to Charlotte and went back inside.
I cast a critical eye around the storage unit, trying to decide what would fit in the space we had left in the trailer and the SUV. Charlotte had discovered several boxes of books. They should fit into the back of the SUV, I decided. The books all seemed to be hardcover and would probably bring a few dollars each.
"I'll check out all of them," Charlotte said as we carried the cartons out. "Maybe we'll get lucky and find a first edition or two."
It wasn't that far-fetched. We'd found treasures before in odder places, including a Les Paul guitar in a barn and a Marklin model train in a pack rat's home. Our stock came from a variety of places: yard sales, flea markets, people looking to downsize. I'd once rescued a table from a ditch by the side of the road. I was also a regular customer of a couple of trash pickers. I'd already let one of those pickers-Teresa Reynard-go through the leftovers from the first storage unit we'd cleared out and I'd promised her the chance to go through the remains of this unit as well.
We strapped the toboggan Liam had discovered and a vintage wooden sled next to the casket in the trailer and filled the SUV with boxes. By the time we were ready to leave, the unit looked a lot emptier. By my estimate the contents of the first storage space would recoup more than what I paid for both, which meant the second one would be all profit.
Charlotte and I-along with Elvis-headed back to Second Chance in the SUV. Liam followed in his truck, which we'd also filled with a snow blower, a wheelbarrow and a collection of wire racks and rods that I was fairly certain was a closet organizing system, and several boxes of vintage canning jars.
I was very glad to have Liam's help. Normally Mac, my second in command, would have been with us. Mac Mackenzie was the proverbial jack-of-all-trades. There wasn't anything he couldn't fix or reconfigure as far as I'd seen. He was all lean, strong muscle with light brown skin, dark eyes and close-cropped black hair.
Mac had given up his life as a financial adviser in Boston to come to Maine and sail every chance he got. Eventually he wanted to build his own wooden boat. He'd come to work with me when the shop first opened because, he'd said, he liked working with his hands. Second Chance was my store, but Mac was more partner than employee. Most important, he was my friend. Beyond that, I wasn't sure.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I completely loved this book!! It was actually the first one I have read in the series, but was hooked after page 1! The protagonist is so easy to relate to, and the author's writing is flawless. The descriptions are spot-on, and her characters are nicely fleshed out. I loved learning about them all and their relationships, and am definitely curious now to go back and read the earlier books to learn more about the back stories. Also, the cat Elvis is the cherry on the cake!! I couldn't help smiling whenever he made an appearance. The author writes with smart humor, which isn't over the top but just puts a smile on your face. I thought the mysteries were well-plotted and the resolutions made sense at the end. And of course the last chapter gives just enough of a cliff-hanger to make me count down for the next installment! Definitely recommend this book and author.
So happy to get a chance to read a new cozy mystery, No Escape Claws by Sofie Ryan. This is the sixth book in The Second Chance Cat mystery series and my first read of this author. Being a cat lover myself I was intrigued by the title and the cover art. The book is set in North Harbor, Maine and has a great group of characters. Sarah is the owner of the Second Chance secondhand shop. The book also features Charlotte's Angels who are a group of mystery solving seniors who are friends of Sarah's grandmother. And of course there is Elvis, the black cat that is just adorable. The mystery involves Mallory Pearson's father who is in prison for the death of his wife. Mallory believes her father is innocent and asks Sarah to help. I thoroughly enjoyed this well-written cozy. I loved the author's writing style, the pacing was good and the dialog between characters was smooth and realistic. I would love to go back and read all the books in this series. Highly recommend this to cozy mystery lovers. Thanks to The Review Crew and the author for providing me a copy of this book. I give this one 4 stars.
I always enjoy my time spent with secondhand shop owner Sarah and her motley crew of employees and friends that make up their own Private Investigating team, Charlotte’s Angels. NO ESCAPE CLAWS, the sixth installment in the Second Chance Cat Mystery Series, is delightful and did not disappoint. This time around, a young woman who was once Charlotte’s student, Mallory, appeals to the Angels to clear her father’s name. Sarah first disagrees with taking the case since Mike took a plea deal for the charge of negligence associated with his wife’s untimely death. She eventually relents even though she is not sure that Mike is innocent. Also featured in this outing is a secondary mystery tenuously connected to Mike that nicely rounds out the tale. I wish I could visit Sarah’s shop in Maine; I think I could spend hours looking at all of the treasures. The shop setting and small town location provide the perfect cozy backdrop for the mystery. The mystery is skillfully plotted and deftly executed with plenty of twists and turns to keep readers guessing throughout the book. There are many characters associated with Gina, the victim, to investigate. My only minor complaint about any aspect of the story is that there are too many characters, causing unnecessary padding and, potentially, a bit of confusion. Even though I suspected whodunit about halfway through the tale, I was not completely convinced until the end. I did not have the secondary mystery figured out at all until the last possible moment. NO ESCAPE CLAWS gives readers a nice puzzle to figure out. The recurring characters in this series are an appealing mix of young and older. I not only view the Angels as Sarah’s friends but also as second mothers and grandmothers to Sarah. How wonderful it would be for everyone to have such love, support, and wisdom! They are shrewd and intelligent, making them competent amateur sleuths. Sarah’s brother and other friends balance the older characters’ actions and perspectives and are all quite enjoyable. I would be remiss to not mention Elvis, the cat. He is a bit of a feline lie detector, a useful skill to have in a four legged assistant investigator. One cannot help but love Elvis and his love of the TV game show Jeopardy. I recommend NO ESCAPE CLAWS to any cozy mystery fan. I received a copy of this title from the author and/or publisher and voluntarily shared my thoughts and opinions here.
Just like the Second Chances antique thrift store with its assortment of New England antiques and household and vintage items for sale this cozy is crowded with a collection of characters. Sarah Grayson the 30ish owner has hired friends of family to work in her shop and rents shop space to the Angels detective agency and they all eventually get caught up in helping a young teenage girl who asks the Angels to prove her father is not guilty in the death of his wife Gina, a troubled alcoholic who died during a fire. There is a lot of doubt that the convicted Mike Pearson could be proved to be actually innocent because of the eye-witness testimony of a neighbor, a respected and trusted former judge, and the fact that Mike did not contest the charges. Sarah gets roped into the investigation though she thinks Mike Pearson is probably guilty but gradually begins to believe that someone else is responsible. But who? Was it one of the parents of the hit and run teenager who was badly injured by Gina? Could it be the vengeful wife of the handsome co-worker who had an affair with Gina or was it the now divorced former co-worker who is struggling to put his life back together? Alongside this investigation, Liz whose family's foundation has been embezzled, is trying to prove the innocence of the man accused of the thefts and Sarah gets involved in that investigation also. The embezzlement is more of a sub-plot to the primary investigation into Gina Pearson's death. The setting is the scenic coastal town of North Harbor in mid-coast Maine and I wish the author had incorporated that more into the story since its such a beautiful area and would add some atmosphere but as compensation there is Elvis, the charming and knowing cat who is the shop's mascot and Sarah's side-kick. This is a likable cast of characters who capture the slightly old-fashioned New England common sense that Mainer's embody. The plots were believable as were the motivations of the characters, both the investigators and the investigated. An enjoyable read especially if you like vintage second hand shops and characters that span all generations with a focus on the golden oldies. I am posting this fair and honest review in exchange for a review copy of the book.
I really enjoy this cozy mystery. The characters were fun and the story progressed well. However, to be the first book I read from this series it was too many characters to follow and it took me a while to get into them. Sarah is a great and likable character. I did like the romance part of the story. Elvis the cat is lovable, however I was expecting him to have more participation. I did figure out who was the killer before the characters did, however it didn’t spoil the fun of reading and enjoying the story. I would highly recommend this book. I was given a free copy of this book; in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Sarah Grayson is an amateur sleuth who owns a second hand shop in North Harbor, Maine. She teams up with her aunts, their boyfriends, and her gram (who all happen to be senior citizen detectives who call themselves Charlotte's Angels) to solve a mysterious death that has the wrong man behind bars. No matter that it's a cold case, these detectives know everyone in town and have interrogation skills that rival the local police force. There is always a yummy treat (blueberry muffins, lemon tarts, even the pizza sounds delicious) to nibble on as they discuss strategies. My one complaint was there were too many characters for me to keep track of: not only the three (or is it four?) older women, their boyfriends/husbands, Sarah's two love interests, her half-brother, the family of the wronged man, and a few others who are possible murder suspects, police deputies, etc. Every time I picked up the book there were names I had to skip back a few pages to re-identify. Although there seemed to be more talk than action which slowed the story down a few times, the mystery had me guessing with enough clues to keep me interested. Thanks to the author and The Cozy Mystery Review Crew for a comp copy in exchange for my honest review.
"No Escape Claws" is the 6th book in "A Second Chance Cat Mystery" series by Sofie Ryan. This is great cozy mystery that kept me interested and engaged throughout the entire novel. I liked the fact that there were two mysteries entwined throughout and that I was truly unable to guess the culprit of one of the crimes until the end. I think that this mystery series is much better then many other series within this genre as the characters are believable, likeable, and above all else have complexities within their own relationships and within themselves that keep this series engaging and interesting. So often one gets characters that are flat, uninteresting, and unbelievable. The amount of characters that are present is just right. The playful banter in between the not just the main character, Sarah, and the other secondary characters in her life: Rose, Charlotte, Albert, Nick, Liam, Mac, Sam, Liz, Gram/John, amongst many others made me chuckle out loud more then once. I also enjoyed the location North Harbor (a small harbor/tourist town on the coast of Maine) as well as the main character's profession (a super cool second hand/antique shop) which should both respectively add more subject matter for further installments in the future. I was able to devour this engaging read in 2 days due to not being able to put it down. I recommend this series wholeheartedly to anyone that enjoys a fun, engaging, and truly interesting murder/mystery. I cannot wait until Ms. Ryan brings us the next installment in this exciting series.
"No Escape Claws" is the sixth book in Sofie Ryan's Second Chance Cat Mystery series. Sarah Grayson owns Second Chance, a mix between an antique and thrift store in North Harbor, Maine. She also owns a very special and astute black cat named Elvis. Additionally, she allows a group of her grandmother's friends to run their amateur detective agency (Charlotte's Angels) out of her shop. This book finds Sarah and the Angels taking on a cold case and trying to clear an innocent man to free him from prison. I am a big fan of this series! The books are quick, entertaining reads featuring satisfying mysteries and quirky, comical characters - plus Elvis the cat! Charlotte's Angels are the Golden Girls mixed with Jessica Fletcher. What's not to love?!? Though Sarah always claims she is not involved in their cases, she ends up being an active participant in their crazy schemes. Elvis is a very special cat who reminds me of Koko in Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who" series. He helps Sarah and the Angels solve crimes and acts as a feline lie detector when the ladies are questioning suspects. There are some ongoing storylines in the series so I recommend that you start from the beginning, but it won't be too confusing if you choose to skip around or start with this mystery. Cozy mystery fans who enjoy a New England setting, geriatric investigators and animals should also enjoy this series. I would recommend it to fans of Krista Davis' "Paws and Claws" series and Ali Brandon's "Black Cat Bookshop" series. I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
No Escape Claws is the sixth book in A Second Chance Cat series and it continues on following the lives of Sarah Grayson and her team of senior citizen friends/detectives. I really enjoyed the writing and the story was very easy to follow. While there were times I didn’t understand some conversations amongst the characters, I know that that is because it came from previous books and that is no fault the authors; I started this series in the sixth book after all. I really enjoyed the mystery- it kept me on my toes and the reveal of the killer was something I didn’t realize until a few pages before the reveal. That is definitely not a bad thing; I don’t like figuring it out too early because I then find myself not interested in continuing. There is also a sub-plot mystery that I didn’t understand but again, that is because I started with the sixth book. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I plan on going back and starting this series from the beginning. I received this book in exchange for an honest review; all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Sarah Grayson, owner of the Second Chance store, once again finds herself drawn into one of Charlotte's Angels mystery cases. Charlotte's Angels is the recently established detective agency that include her grandmother's senior friends, Charlotte, Liz and Rose, as well as Rose's friend, Mr. P. This time, they are hired by Mallory Pearson, asking to prove her father's innocence, currently serving time in jail for criminal negligence in the death of his wife. But complicating this case even further is the fact that her father, Mike Pearson, sends a message to drop the case. While Rose and Liz originally argued over the advisability of this case, they soon are "all hands on deck" as they sort through the events and suspects leading up to the death, and the more they uncover, the more they are convinced that the death by fire may not have been caused by the victim as was originally ruled, but possibly had a more sinister cause. Running parallel to this investigation, Sarah and Liz are also looking into facts surrounding another criminal case involving police detective Michelle's father, now deceased. Michelle has privately asked Liz to look into the original embezzlement conviction with the intent of clearing her father's name. Between the two cases, one of which is kept secret even from the other Angels, Sarah is kept busy. But her faithful cat companion, Elvis, is there to keep her headed in the right direction and also keep her spirits up. This is a fun cozy mystery series, with enjoyable characters who also show that old isn't always senile, incompetent, or throw-away. And family and friendship is stressed throughout, as they interact with each other both in happiness and sadness. I look forward to the next book in this series. Disclosure: I am voluntarily reviewing this book and all opinions are strictly my own.
No Escape Claws is the sixth book in the Second Chance Cat Mystery series and was a creative whodunit with plenty of twists and turns, although there was little involvement from Elvis, the feline in this series. The mystery in this story was a team effort with the main character, Sarah, being a reluctant team player. When she was first approached by Mallory, who was firm that her father was wrongly convicted for a crime that he couldn’t have committed, Sarah was skeptical. She was not sold on Mallory’s father’s innocence, especially because he had pled guilty to the crime in the first place, but ultimately helped with the investigation because her curiosity of what took place won over her skepticism. I really liked the mystery in this story because it kept me on my toes wondering who was the guilty party but I didn’t enjoy that it involved so many characters. I did not really feel a connection to Sarah, Mr. P., Nick, Mac, or any of the Angels in this story and although they were interesting and well developed, they just did not hold my interest. So, with their many interactions and multiple conversations in the story, I found my interest waning a bit. There was a small romance angle with Sarah trying to decide how she truly felt about two different guys and that added some extra interest to this story because it was written well and did not detract from what was taking place. Overall, No Escape Claws was a mystery that was a delight to solve. This review is based on a complimentary book I received from NetGalley. It is an honest and voluntary review. The complimentary receipt of it in no way affected my review or rating.