The Persian Always Meows Twice: A Cat Groomer Mystery by Eileen Watkins. (available on Amazon).
Cassie McGlone needs to start over, escape from an abusive ex-boyfriend, and establish a business of her own. An independent woman, Cassie moves to Chadwick, New Jersey (a fictional town somewhere near Morristown) and opens a cat grooming shop. She is fortunate to find a competent assistant, Sarah, who rapidly becomes one of Cassie’s close friends and confidants.
Nick Janos, a gifted carpenter, builds separate houses for the shop in which each cat can relax while boarding or waiting to be groomed. Dion is Nick’s son, a young man who is drawn to computers and creates a unique encryption code that he hopes to sell to businessman, George DeLeuw. He has presented the program to the successful entrepreneur quite a while ago, and is niggled that DeLeuw has not yet given him an offer.
DeLeuw is also Cassie’s biggest customer since his beautiful Persian, Harpo, needs frequent grooming. Much to her horror, Cassie discovers DeLeuw’s body, bludgeoned to death, on the floor of his study when she comes to see DeLeuw. When the police are called, Cassie meets Detective Angela Bonelli, who seems suspicious of everyone, including Cassie, since she found the body.
Harpo comes to stay at Cassie’s shop until a proper, loving home can be found for him. However, before adoption can be considered, Cassie needs to see if one of George’s relatives, perhaps his ex-wife, Margaret, or his aloof sister, Danielle, are named in DeLeuw’s will as Harpo’s new owner. After a visit from each woman demanding that Cassie turn over Harpo to one of them, Cassie wonders if perhaps Margaret and Danielle know that George’s fortune is tied to the conservatorship of the cat. Cassie hopes that this is not the case since neither woman professes to be fond of animals. Still, when both Danielle and Margaret visit Cassie’s shop and demand to take Harpo with her, Cassie’s suspicions of either of them being the killer are heightened.
Unintentionally, Cassie is drawn into the mystery of who killed the prominent businessman, and eventually becomes accepted by Det. Bolina as someone who, being an insider in the town, can get valuable information for Bolina regarding the suspects, of whom there are many. Dion Janos has reason to want to kill DeLeuw when the Chinese come up with an encryption code similar to his, and he assumes that DeLeuw sold the patent to them.
Both the sister and ex-wife are candidates for consideration. Perhaps they were too greedy to wait for George to die of natural causes. And, there are DeLeuw’s housekeeper and his personal assistant, who are in close contact with DeLeuw all the time. Who did it? Watkins provides the mystery with several viable candidates.
Those who follow my column regularly know that the measure of a well written novel depends on the development of the characters in it. Watkins is especially strong in creating a multi-faceted and highly likeable protagonist in Cassie. When Cassie arrives in Chadwick, she is damaged from her relationship with Andy, who does make an appearance at her shop in a ploy to get her back. As her business grows, and she makes friends in her adopted hometown, Cassie is even ready to open herself up to love again with the handsome veterinarian, whose practice is near to her shop. At the end of the book, I am intrigued and want to know what happens to Cassie and her friends.
Currently, there are five Cat Groomer mysteries, including Feral Attraction, Gone, Kitty, Gone, The Bengal Identity, and the most recent book, Claw and Disorder, which was published in January 2021.
Feline lovers and mystery aficionados will love this well written series. Cassie, herself, owns three cats, and we meet several boarders in the course of the story. As cat people know, each kitty has his or her own personality. Some are so sweet and will purr in your lap forever. Others are content to sit above your head on the couch and lord over the household.
In The Persian Always Rings Twice one particularly aggressive cat even takes on the role of hero at the novel’s end. Watkins, a former journalist, is a strong writer. Her prose is fresh, her plot holds your interest, and the characters are original. This series is a winner.