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THE BENGAL IDENTITY
by Eileen Watkins
Kensington, April 2018
240 pages
$15.95
ISBN: 1496710584


Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

When Rudy Pierson drops off a regal brown cat for boarding, Cassie McGlone is a little reluctant. He doesn't have her vet records, doesn't know if she's been spayed, and just doesn't look quite right. His story is plausible, perhaps. Still, she is trying to run a business and he does pay in advance. Cassie just hopes it will cover the pricey food Ayesha prefers. After Rudy leaves, Cassie and her assistant Sarah Wilcox discover that Ayesha has no aversion be being groomed, not even when a bath is involved. The bath reveals that Ayesha is not the Havana Brown Cassie thought she might be. It will take several more baths before Ayesha's breed is revealed: a Bengal. By the time Cassie has figured this out, Rudy Pierson is dead - and that's not his real name. So who does Ayesha belong to?

Running a small business takes up a lot of time. Cassie has regular clients and is also trying to build her base. Part of this means participating in local events such as Chadwick Days, a town-wide promotion of local businesses. Getting all the details worked out for that takes time and networking with other establishments. This is a good way for Watkins to give readers a feel, not just for the setting, but for the people in Cassie's life. One friend owns a health food store: Nature's Way. There is a small art gallery a few blocks away. The bakery is convenient. Watkins makes good use of the plotting enhancements that such information can provide. In particular, one of the sub-plots involves Nature's Way and some illegal activities. It also brings up some unpleasant parts of Cassie's past.

In the present, things have been very low-key with the local vet, Mark Coccia. In dealing with Ayesha, Cassie finds a way to reconnect with Mark, although the course of true love, as the Bard says, doesn't run smoothly (or some such paraphrase). There are problems in Mark's office; Cassie can see the common source while Mark remains skeptical, and a bit resentful. The local mechanic, Todd Gillis, is more than interested in Cassie. Uncomfortably so, in Cassie's opinion. Her life gets more complicated when Todd disappears.

Cassie works on many of these issues with a local policewoman, Detective Angela Bonelli. They have a good rapport and work well together. Watkins makes good use of Bonelli and her law enforcement connections, particularly with regard to some of the local animal rescue operations; Cassie winds up on an early-morning rescue with several such groups and Mark. Watkins also uses this plot device to advance what is (I suspect) a social agenda of her own. It's done deftly and almost without notice, although any reader with similar concerns will know what's going on.

This is the second book about Cassie's Comfy Cats and the people connected to it. Reading the first one, THE PERSIAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE, is a good set-up for book two and Watkins writes well enough that it isn't required to enjoy Ayesha's adventures. Watkins has a good grasp of plotting and characterization, as well as a well-honed knowledge of feline behavior.

I have been reading and reviewing mystery fiction for over a quarter of a century and read broadly within just about all genres and sub-genres. I have been a preliminary judge for the Malice Domestic/St. Martin's Press Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Contest for at least 25 years. I live in Northern lower Michigan with my spousal unit, one large cat, and 2 fairly small dogs.

Reviewed by PJ Coldren, December 2017

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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