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by Cate Conte
St Martin's Paperbacks, December 2020
331 pages
ISBN: 1250761530

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Christmas time finds Maddie James juggling personal relationships and vocational issues as murder once more complicates life on Daybreak Island and her mission to rescue feral cats.

Unfortunately, extreme winter weather threatens a feral cat colony located in the most exclusive neighborhood of Daybreak Island. Sea Spray Lane residents refuse access through their property, complaining that the intruders are stealing Christmas decorations. Then, on December 22, as Maddie completes her feral colony feeding chores, she discovers the body of Virgil Proust: his wife is adamantly opposed to allowing the rescue volunteers entry through their property. Police arrest Katrina Denning, the animal control officer for Daybreak Harbor, for Proust's murder.

Maddie begins to investigate, nudging her Grandpa Leo, the former police chief, into helping her.

Two other issues prove somewhat distracting for Maddie: renovations to JJ's House of Purrs and no word from a new boyfriend. After transforming her Grandpa Leo's house into JJ's House of Purrs, Maddie now operates the cat café offering rescue cats for adoption. Maddie also manages the unattached garage's expansion to create space for her business partner Ethan to show off his culinary skills, adding to the café menu. Regarding her personal life, a new relationship with Lucas Davenport is on a temporary hold while he visits his family for the holidays. However, unable to reach Lucas, Maddie concludes their relationship is over.

Cate Conte handles the complex activities with great skill as her story unfolds. The author continues to deepen character development in this fourth adventure of the Cat Café Mystery series as she reveals more background about certain characters. Conte's creative mystery plotting employs strategic use of red herrings that, in turn, delivers a surprising culprit. And, as always, feline characters manage to add a little humor and emotional warmth to this comfortably-paced cozy.

§ Ruth Castleberry has worked as an investigator for Pinkerton’s, a city desk assistant on the Charlotte News, free-lance writer, marketing/business strategy consultant, competitive intelligence practitioner and digital marketing consultant.

Reviewed by Ruth Castleberry, November 2020

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