Publication Date: 10/01/2013
Publisher: Penguin Group
Imprint: Berkley Prime Crime
Genre: Cozy Mystery
(Received for an honest review from Berkley Prime Crime)
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository, IndieBound
Carolyn Hart on the WEB: Website, Facebook, Goodreads
Excerpt from What the Cat Saw, courtesy of Amazon's Look Inside feature.
National bestselling author Carolyn Hart presents the story of a woman with a curious ability that drops her headfirst into a world of intrigue and murder…
Since her fiancé’s death, Nela Farley has been plagued by a sixth sense: She understands the thoughts of cats. In desperate need of a distraction, Nela agrees to substitute for her sister, Chloe, at her job for a charitable foundation. Chloe has even arranged a place for her sister to stay. But when Nela encounters the previous tenant’s cat, she gets a flash of thought: “. . . dead and gone . . . She loved me . . . skateboard on the step . . .”
Nela wants to ignore what the cat saw, but the idea that the death of former tenant Marian Grant wasn’t an accident is something she can’t ignore. And when a detective becomes suspicious of Nela’s sister and a second murder occurs, Nela realizes she’ll have to make the most of her unwanted ability before she meets her own untimely end…
Carolyn Hart begins a new paranormal cozy mystery series, with her book, What the Cat Saw. Hart's trademark style and character development draws readers into the story of a C.O.O (corporate operating officer) and a fill in employee who gets some information from an unlikely source... the woman's cat. Hart's brand of lighthearted mystery is full of surprises. With an interesting paranormal theme and a great new protagonist in Nela Farley, Hart's new series is bound to strike a cord with readers, from mystery fans to cat lovers!
Let me start by saying that Carolyn Hart has had an outstanding career as a mystery writer. From her Death on Demand series to Bailey Ruth, Hart has thrilled readers from start to finish. She has a way of writing characters that makes them companionable and allows them to turn into old friends that readers want to visit again and again. Her straight forward style and elegant simplicity, lend a sophistication to her books that is not often present in the cozy sub-genre. She is a legend in the mystery community and readers are quick to pick up any new book she releases.
What the Cat Saw is Hart's newest series starter and I for one was really excited to see her starting something new. This book is departure from some of her other books in that it is a little more concentric. The protagonist comes full circle before figuring out the clues that lead to the murderer. Hart starts out with a young grieving woman who takes a chance opening as a fill in for her sister, at a charitable organization in hopes of finding a new start. She recently lost her job as an investigative reporter and her fiancee to an IED in Afghanistan. Nela Farley is a character after my own heart and Hart endears her the reader quickly with her sad memories and her love for her scatter brained sister. This character has a ton of potential with her unusual gift reading the minds of cats she comes in contact with.
One of the things I really enjoyed early on in this book is the heroines skepticism at her own abilities. This is paranormal ability that seems to have originated with the death of her fiancee, and she wonders if she isn't going crazy. I liked the fact that she didn't just accept it out of turn. That would have been too unbelievable. Also I enjoyed the way Hart wrote the thoughts that Nela was gleaning from the felines she came in contact with. The were short spurts of thought, not altogether coherent or fully realized. Exactly what I would expect from a cat. That was a nice touch.
Jugs is an interesting character in his own right, but I felt he was sorely underused. Readers will meet him in the beginning and learn what he has to offer Nela, but then he shifts into a background role. I would have liked to have seen Hart, really allow Jugs to become more than just a filler. There is a lot of potential for Jugs in this book, that I don't think was fully realized. But I also understand that he will not be a character that will be a focal point in the series, just in this particular book, so that may have been the reason of this.
There were other secondary characters who had a lot of potential as well. Steve, the local newspaper writer and even the curmudgeon of a police detective, but none of these other characters really got a lot of time in the story. Hart is known for her great characters and I felt like these were not as developed as the usual for Hart. Readers may feel a little cheated because of this. I would have enjoyed getting to know more about other people who worked for Halko beyond just a cursory scene here and there.
There were several things about this book that didn't quite add up to the normal Carolyn Hart novel. That's not to say that it was a horrible book. It just wasn't what readers have come to expect from Hart. There is still plenty of potential for the series and subsequent books may counter some of the issues with this one. Another issue that stood out for me was the lack of setting and scene. Usually in a cozy mystery the setting is very important. In this novel the action centers around Halko and does not go into great details about the Craddock, Oklahoma town or it's residents beyond the police detective and the newspaperman. I wanted to know more about the area and the people, though I realize that this series is more character concentric than setting dependent.
The characters seem to rehash the facts of the case not once or twice but even three or four times in some cases. That made the book seem somewhat redundant and full of more filler than story line. There was so many ways this story could have gone that I believe would have been much more successful. The author is great storyteller and this book is good, but it's not great. I will definitely be looking to see if the sophomore effort in this series, can redeem it. I think it can and I believe it will. Hart is too good a writer not to rebound from this one.
Some readers may be able to look beyond the cons and see the pros in this one. The great main character, the interesting paranormal twist, the realistic portrayal of the thoughts of a feline. There are good things here, just not enough to pull off the first in this new series book.
What the Cat Saw is available NOW from your favorite bookseller.
I am sadly giving this one 3 out of 5 apples from my book bag!
About the Author:
An accomplished master of mystery, Carolyn Hart is the author of fifty novels of mystery and suspense. Her books have won multiple Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. One of the founders of Sisters in Crime, Hart lives in Oklahoma City, where she enjoys mysteries, walking in the park, and cats. She and her husband, Phil, serve as staff—cat owners will understand—to an orange tabby and brother and sister brown tabbies.
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