Sunnyside’s most gifted students have been at the mercy of a shadowy network of college fixers—including an abusive oboe teacher whose recommendation is necessary to get into Julliard and a school secretary who alters grades for cash. When they turn up dead, Colbie has to untangle a cat’s cradle of suspects and motivations—from livid parents and students whose dreams have been crushed to an entire secret Facebook group of spurned lovers.
Suddenly, holiday preparations just got a lot hairier. With the big re-order now on hold and the real killer still at large, Colbie discovers that someone has been grading on a very dangerous curve—and it will take all her newfound sleuthing talent to land safely on her feet.
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I gulped down the last of my coffee and dragged myself to the front door for the dreaded morning run, regretting my decision to get in better shape in time for the holidays. And that was before I got knee-capped by the smallest goat I'd ever seen outside of a YouTube video.
"Wha-ow!" I yelled as the little tyke with a surprisingly hard head made contact and then backed up to take another run at me.
"Stop it." I moved a few steps away and put my hand down to fend him off.
Then I noticed his accomplice, Charlie the rooster, who stared at the doorbell and back at me, as if he understood that something had gone wrong with the normal order of things. He was a Buff Laced Polish rooster, with an elaborate comb full of long feathers that fell in front of his eyes, making him look even more confused.
Before Charlie belonged to my neighbor, he had been used for psychology experiments. Now he pushed buttons wherever he could find them. One of his favorites was our doorbell, which gave him the reward of hearing a nerve-jangling rendition of "Yankee Doodle Dandy." Normally, whoever answered the door would walk him down the street back home to his farm.
The door opening before he rang the doorbell delayed him for just a moment, and then he hopped up on the planter and aimed for the button. I snagged him out of the air in mid leap. "No doorbells this early," I scolded. "Dad and Elliott are sleeping."
My cat, Trouble, was scowling at us through the kitchen window that looked out over the porch. She hated Charlie and usually made a loud fuss when he arrived. The goat must have thrown her off, because she hadn't made a sound. She was an orange tabby and the morning sun was highlighting her white chest and paws while keeping her face in the shadows, but the rooster and goat didn't even notice.
I carried Charlie down the stairs and the goat followed, hopping sideways on all four hooves and kicking his hind legs in the air. "Looks like you have a new friend," I said to Charlie as I put him down. We walked down the street in an odd parade, Charlie pecking at every speck on the ground, and the goat trying to climb everything, even making an unsuccessful attempt at the mailbox.
Then he jumped a bunch of times, twisting back and forth in a little happy goat dance that made me smile. "You are adorable!" I couldn't help but hope that it belonged to Joss Delaney. He owned the organic chicken farm at the end of the block and since we were dating, I'd be able to see this cutie-pie a lot.
We walked up to Joss's porch and I let Charlie bounce off the porch swing to get to the doorbell. We waited, six eyes on the door.
Joss smiled when he saw me and then noticed the goat. "Pegasus?"
Pegasus the goat pranced toward him a few steps then dipped his head again.
"Watch it," I said. "His head butts are lethal."
"Stop it," Joss scolded the goat, who lifted his head and danced again as if saying it had all been a big joke. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah." I reached down to scratch the goat's back and he arched up. "He just surprised me." I noticed the white spot on his side that looked just like a wing. "So you have a goat named Pegasus."
He blew out a breath. "Seems like it. Gemma gave them to Kai, totally assuming that they could stay here."
Gemma was Joss's ex-wife and his daughter Kai's mother. They'd been through a nasty divorce and came to an uneasy truce a few months before. "That's nice?" I couldn't help how my voice rose at the end to make it a question. I hurried to add, "You said 'them.' More than one?"
He pointed to the pen near the barn where I could see another adorable goat peering out from behind the open gate. "That's Percy."
"Like from the Percy Jackson books?" I guessed. Percy was smaller and fluffier than Pegasus, and he had longer ears. The black and brown spots all over his white fur resembled a jigsaw puzzle.
"Yep," Joss said. "Kai can't get enough of them."
She loved the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books by Rick Riordan. They were filled with mythology and adventure.
Joss grabbed my hand as we walked over to reunite the goats. "Sorry I'm so distracted. These guys just arrived yesterday." The small pen held several brightly colored wooden tables of various heights and balls of different sizes. "At least Gemma sent food and toys along with them."
"Where did she get those? Goats "R" Us?" I asked just as Percy leapt onto a blue table and Pegasus followed, pushing him off the other side, only to take turns doing it again.
Joss smiled and then examined the latch as he pulled the gate shut. "Maybe Kai didn't hook it properly."
"Maybe Charlie is luring them into his life of crime as an escape artist."
He pretended to frown at Charlie, and then lifted him to stare into his face. "I wouldn't put it past him." He set Charlie down in his own pen.
"I better get my run in before the farmers' market," I said. I'd loaded everything I needed, other than Trouble, into the car the night before. "Kai still sleeping?"
He nodded and pulled me close for a kiss, finally focusing those blue eyes on me.
We broke apart and I was breathing fast before I even started my run.
"Still on for Tuesday?" he called after me.
"Of course." I looked back to see him watching me run down the block. I sent him a flirty wave, and then ruined it by stumbling.
Joss and I had started dating a few months before and had settled into a delightful pattern, fitting in dates during the weekends his daughter was with her mother, and when my son Elliott had rehearsals during the week. Kai had become ensnared in the same love of theater and had enjoyed watching Elliott's rehearsals and helping with costumes.
November in Sunnyside, California provided the best weather for morning exercise. The air was cool with only a hint of moisture as the sun came up, pushing the low-lying gray clouds of the marine layer back to the ocean. The hills in the distance were still uncharacteristically brown. We usually started getting rain in October, but not this year. All of Southern California was on high alert for fire danger — a bigger fear than earthquakes.
I'd taken up jogging again when I unpacked the last boxes from my dad's garage, signaling that Elliott and I were staying put.
We originally moved in with my father during his second bout of pneumonia, and I assumed we'd move back to the city once he was recovered. My dad and I butted heads for a lot of my adult life, ever since I dropped out of college when I got pregnant with Elliott. We resolved a lot of our issues and he admitted that he wanted us to stay, and I admitted that Elliott and I wanted that too.
Now we were making up for lost time.
Elliott had brought the box inside, chanting, "The last box," in the same tone as the dodo's saying "the last melon" in the Ice Age movie. The box contained toiletries from the back of the kitchen closet, unmatched socks, and my Weight Watchers scale.
I hadn't been to the gym in ages, but my clothes all still fit, and I kept myself busy with my job that was often physical — lifting boxes of cat food, stirring five gallon pots of Seafood Surprise in a pan the size of a manhole, and lugging around a cat carrier filled with a cat who ate very well. I'd confidently set the scale down on the kitchen floor and stepped on it.
The sound that came out of my mouth was something like "Gak!" The number on the small screen sparked my new morning routine of jogging and eating egg white omelets for breakfast.
Once my muscles loosened up and I got past the aches and pains, I went through my to-do list in my head while I ran.
I owned the Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food Company and we were poised to enter a new phase. Based on the success of introducing my products to the San Diego-based Twomey's Health Food Stores, I'd recently sent a business proposal to Natural-LA Grocers, which had more than fifty stores throughout Los Angeles.
It was all I could do to focus on the normal day-to-day issues instead of wondering why I hadn't heard from them yet. To keep my mind off of it, I'd gone back into product development mode, trying out new recipes and taste-testing them on Trouble. I'd learned long ago that if Trouble didn't like the food, it wouldn't sell. This last round of new product development had confirmed that she still didn't like anything with curry, but I wasn't ready to give up on a Thai-themed product.
My business had settled into a solid schedule of working in the commercial kitchen at least two mornings a week. But it left me enough time to handle the farmers' markets, as well as work on marketing and the other behind-the-scenes tasks. Meowio had grown so much in a short period of time. And it all started with Trouble.
I was just getting by as an apartment manager, collecting rent and handling issues like plumbing and lost keys for a small building in downtown San Diego, when I found Trouble abandoned in an empty apartment. She was so tiny then, too young to have been taken away from her mother, and had a lot of digestive problems. I started cooking her food and learned that some of my friends' cats had the same issues. I sold my food to more and more cat owners, eventually expanding to farmers' markets. Now Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food was sold all over San Diego. And soon, maybe all over Los Angeles.
It wouldn't have happened without Quincy Powell, a successful business tycoon who spent his "retirement" helping small companies get off the ground. He'd invested in my company and let me use his commercial kitchen at a heavily discounted rate. Even better, he'd brought Meowio under his benevolent umbrella — providing networking opportunities with the other companies he helped.
My head chef Zoey and her part-time assistants could handle production without me, but I needed to keep my hand in every part of the business, including managing booths at two farmers' markets a week so that I could hear firsthand what my customers wanted.
My phone rang and I realized I'd forgotten to turn it off. I checked the screen and saw that it was my friend Yollie. It must be an emergency for her to be calling this early on a Saturday. I stopped running to answer. "Hi Yollie," I wheezed out. "Everything okay?"
"Colbie! Thank God!" She sounded as breathless as I did.
"I need to ask you a huge favor," she said. "Can you pick up Steven at his music lesson this morning? My car broke down and he has to be picked up on time."
Steven was a senior in high school, completely stressed out by the college application process. He dedicated a lot of time to practicing oboe and hoped to be accepted to a world-class music conservatory. He'd even started using his middle name of Steven years before because there was already a famous oboist with the name Jordan George.
Frankly, I thought Jordan George had more of a musician sound to it than Steven George, but at his insistence, even Yollie now called him Steven.
"What time?" I asked. "I have the farmers' market."
"Can you get there before eight?"
Who had a music lesson so early on a Saturday? "No problem."
"Oh thank goodness," she said. "You're a lifesaver."
"Can you text me the address?" I bounced a little to keep my muscles warm.
"It's a couple of miles from your house," she said. "Hold on."
I waited for her to send me the link and clicked on it. "That's not very far."
"I know this is going to sound crazy, but his teacher has a bunch of rules that I'm going to email you." Her voice was apologetic.
"Yes," she said. "Like you have to stay in your car until Steven comes out. He'll get in trouble if you don't follow all of the rules."
"Okay," I said in my I'm humoring you voice.
She wasn't convinced. "Seriously, Colbie. This is important to Steven."
"Fine," I said. "I'll follow the rules." I rolled my eyes.
"I owe you big-time," she said. "Let me know when you have him."
I hung up and stretched my legs before looking at the document Yollie sent. First of all, the teacher's name was Benson Tadworth. No wonder he had control issues. Second, he called himself an "Oboe Master." For some reason, that triggered the Darth Vader music from Star Wars to play in my head. Third, the list of rules was way over the top. Parents must arrive ten minutes early for drop-off and pick-up and must stay in their car. Payment must be on time on the first day of the month or your student will be dropped immediately. Students must practice three hours a day and document their times to the minute.Students must master reed making, practicing a minimum of one hour every day and at least fourteen hours a week.
Geez. I'd run into control freaks like this in the junior music theater world and never knew why parents put up with them. There was always someone else who could teach the same thing and didn't have all the baggage. But Yollie was Steven's mom so she got to decide.
I jogged back home and found my dad in the kitchen pouring a cup of coffee, still in his bathrobe. Trouble meowed as soon as she saw me. The cranky look on her face said, What took you so long?
I told my dad about Yollie's call while I fed Trouble.
"Doesn't he drive?" my dad asked, his before-coffee crankiness coming through.
"Yeah, but they share a car." I grabbed my keys before he could get into a kids these days discussion. "Can you wake up Elliott while I'm gone? He has to set up for the costume committee." Elliott was the co-vice president of the middle school drama club and had volunteered to host the costume committee. For weeks, our dining room had been home to swaths of different material, four sewing machines, and various masks made out of papier-mâché.
"No pancakes?" my dad asked.
I usually made pancakes for breakfast and was planning to make them in the shape of lions in honor of Elliott's play. "Sorry! Tomorrow for sure."
"Okay," he said, disappointed.
My dad had grumbled a bit about the costume chaos, but I think he was actually pleased that Elliott was comfortable enough here to bring his friends over. I was happy that my dad had been able to see Elliott in a leadership position, something he didn't realize happened off the football field.
Elliott had been firmly against the club choosing The Lion King as the fall musical until my best friend Lani Nakano had volunteered to design the costumes and lead the committee. Lani had her own company called Find Your Re-Purpose. She recycled used clothes to create amazing fashions for people willing to wear wild colors and who had the money to pay for them.
Elliott and the rest of the drama club had fallen in love with her concept of dark pink-spotted giraffes, purple elephants, and antelopes with daisy print fur, while the main characters would have regular costumes.
She'd also brought in the local puppetry guild to show the student actors how to make some of the more elaborate costumes come to life. They'd been teaching them how to use the puppets safely and decided that the larger animals would enter the stage from the wings and wouldn't be part of the parade down the aisles.
I'd been having nightmares about giraffe heads falling on audience members, so having experts around made me feel much better.
Elliott had become even more delighted when he was cast in the role of Zazu, the red-billed hornbill who advises the King.
With just a couple of days until dress rehearsals, Lani had scheduled a full day of costume work, and the early birds would be arriving soon.
At first, Trouble seemed to hate the mess in her kingdom, but lately, she had taken to batting around the masks. We now made sure the doors stayed closed to keep her away from wayward pins, sequins, and anything else she might decide to chew on.
I entered the address Yollie had texted me and arrived with ten minutes to spare. Unfortunately, I was beside a large hedge that ran the length of the property with no house in sight. This couldn't be right. I pulled behind a black BMW with dark tinted windows that must be as lost as I was, since the other side of the street was an empty lot.
I texted Yollie a photo of the hedge. She texted back right away. Sorry! The GPS gets weird in that neighborhood. You're at the back of the property. Take two rights and you'll be there. You can't miss the flamingo mailbox.
Following her directions took me right to the big pink bird with stork-like legs holding up the mailbox body and a curved head sticking out of the top. Someone really loved flamingos.
The curb had been painted green with the sign, Ten Minute Parking Zone, in white. It didn't look like the lettering of other short-term parking zones. Had Benson Tadworth painted it himself?(Continues…)
Excerpted from "The Trouble with Talent"
Copyright © 2019 Kathy Krevat.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
What a fun book! It kept me reading and when I wasn't able to read, I was trying to figure out "whodunit"! A timely topic made the book even more interesting! When Colbie hears an oboe teacher berate high school students, she immediately jumps into action. However, her defense of the students is not appreciated as this teacher is the one person who can guarantee college acceptance. Unfortunately, for him, he won't have that power for long as he winds up a murder victim. Colbie's good friend Quincy, through a twist of fate, is seen fighting with the teacher and is accused of murder. Colbie has to intervene to clear her friend's name. I loved this book! the story centered on the competition to get into college and the lengths that parents will go to for their children's college admission! How timely!! The Trouble with Talent has everything I enjoy in a cozy - a good, solid mystery, quirky and lovable family & friends, a smart and kind main character (loved how she dealt with Joss's interfering ex-wife) and a main character who works with law enforcement. The romance, between Colbie and Joss, was perfect and I loved how the story included each of their children. I also enjoyed the supportive relationship Colbie has with her father and friends. And who could forget the lovable Trouble the cat, who is always one step ahead of Colbie in finding clues! I'm impatiently waiting for another mystery to "solve" with Colbie and Trouble! I received an ARC, from NetGalley for a fair and honest review of this book.
Wonderful Cozy Mystery This is such a good mystery! The story has some sweet and clean romance, a high school play, serious musical study, and gourmet cat food. It all meshes nicely into a well-written mystery. I enjoyed this book so much that I plan on reading the other books in this series. I received this ARC book for free from Net Galley and this is my honest review.
Series: A Gourmet Cat Mystery - Book 3 Author: Kathy Krevat Genre: Cozy Mystery/Animal Pet Publisher: Lyrical Underground Page Count:188 Kathy Krevat’s latest mystery book addition to her “A Gourmet Cat Mystery” series The Trouble with Talent from Lyrical Underground is a fun-filled page-turner filled with real-world headlines and contemporary issues. Ms. Krevat (Aarons) has cooked up a mystery that will keep readers engaged and on the edge of their seats. Colbie is a typical mom, protective yet not wanting to be intrusive, she wants what’s best for her son. She tries not to interfere any more than she has too and does her best to keep her motherly opinions to herself. But when she sees a friend’s child being verbally abused by a trusted teacher, her outrage can’t be contained. Colbie is outspoken, sometimes mildly irritating, and completely charming. None of which is uncommon in a mystery book character, but she does keep us entertained and turning the page. The fact that she didn’t realize how bloodthirsty parents and educators could be, only shows how often she looks at the world from a different perspective than most people. This makes her a very engaging character. Most of the characters in The Trouble with Talent provide an integral perspective on the mindset of parents who will go to almost any length to give their kid an advantage. From one parent who is obsessed with making sure her son goes the perfect school, to one who becomes violent upon learning about the teacher's abuse, to a parent who just wants to get an abusive relationship out of her child’s life, these characters show us a side of being a parent few mystery books allow. The killer is not who you would expect, and although the clues were throughout the book, some readers may not connect them until the end. The resolution of the investigation is concluded successfully, with each twist and turn explained. The Trouble with Talent is an engrossing mystery book that is easy to read and filled with fun, exciting action-filled scenes, memorable characters, and a great plot. I highly recommend this book and series to readers of all cozy mysteries.
Colbie Summers is back as the sleuth in this series. Colbie is the owner of an organic, gourmet cat food company. Her business has been growing and is on the verge of getting into a brand new market. At the same time, she is getting ready to host Thanksgiving at her father’s house, where she and her son now also reside. She is asked, as a favor, to pick up a friend’s son at his oboe lesson. While waiting, something happens which makes her mad. When she tries to correct a wrong, she ends up uncovering a scheme for getting recommendations to get into the college of a child’s choice. Then murder occurs and Colbie is, once again, drawn into solving the murder. The plot is timely given real life events which have occurred recently. It was interesting to read and the whodunnit was surprising. I also loved the Thanksgiving group and how Colbie felt about it and actually dealt with it. I was provided a digital advance reader copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley.
The Trouble with Talent by Kathy Krevat is book three in the Gourmet Cat Mystery series. Don't worry, if you haven't read the first two, Krevat catches you up quickly but having read the others, you will want to! The timing of the book is prefect since it deals with a college admission scandal. Colbie is once again drawn into finding a killer. This time it's to find out who murdered the oboe teacher. Not only is there that mystery, you get exe's returning and wanting back what they gave up, baby goats, a rooster, likeable characters, humor, romance, family, and of course Trouble. Over all, this is an easy to read mystery with a great plot. I was given an ARC by Netgalley and the publisher for an honest opinion. '
This was the first book a read in the series, and it was great! From the moment a chicken rang the doorbell I was loving it. The plot of the book was great and strangely echoes actual news that broke recently. I loved that main character Colbie and her Dad support her son in theater. There are so many unique and awesome characters that I want to live in her town! The killer was a little too obvious for my taste, But this was an absolutely charming book, and I look forward to the next one! I received an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review!
I love this series and I loved this installment. It was a very good mystery and I'm happy I met again characters I love like Colbie, Trouble and Charlie the chicken (I think that Charlie the bell ringing chicken is great). The plot was full of twists and turns and I couldn't put this book down. The fleshed out characters, the interesting subplots and the setting are great and they play a huge part in why I love this series. The mystery was very good, it kept me guessing even if I had some doubt. The romance was sweet and I like how it was written as a mature relationship. I look forward to reading the next installment in this series. Many thanks to Kensington Books and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
I love this series! Don't worry, though, if you haven't read the earlier ones because Krevat will quickly catch you up on the adventure of Colbie, her dad, her son Elliott, her love interest Joss, and Trouble the cat! This is topical in so many ways. There's murder of course but there's also a college admissions scandal going on in the small town of Sunnyside. Colbie's on the hunt for the real murderer even as she keeps her small business of gourmet cat food going- and expanding. She's a hoot in a positive, never twee way. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. A good cozy.