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by Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, July 2005
224 pages
ISBN: 1590581652

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Theda Karkow went from staff member to freelancer for the Morning Mail, and has discovered that the move lost her a lot of respect and security. Although desperate to find that one glorious news story that will make her career, she is charmed into thinking about writing a human interest piece on Lillian Helmhold, former dancer and current recluse.

Theda hopes to bring good publicity to Lillian's unofficial cat rescues, since the neighbors are convinced she's nothing but a crazy old cat lady. Children even make up stories about her and a supposed hidden treasure. But when Theda comes back for the interview, Lillian is dead.

The police chalk it up to an accidental fall, probably from tripping over a cat, and stop investigating. But the neighborhood doesn't let Lillian rest in peace. One keeps breaking into the house to sort through Lillian's papers, while another one has pulled strings to make sure that she gains title to Lillian's home. What do they want, and do they want it badly enough to engineer that so-called accident? Theda Krakow, investigative reporter, takes over the case.

This is Simon's first fiction book, and it shows. She doesn't add any frills to the standard 'aging recluse reputedly hiding treasure' plot, so the book is very straightforward: Scene set. Murder committed. Parade of suspects. Climax. Without digressions or much in the way of subplots (we do make side tracks into Theda's love life) there isn't all that much to hold a reader's interest in the basic storyline. As for the mystery, I felt the resolution of whodunit and whydunit to be slapped on as opposed to being the true solution in a field of plausible possibilities.

MEW IS FOR MURDER isn't a bad book, it's just not a very original one. Beyond the story flaws, though, feline fanciers will appreciate the large part that cats play. Several cats are characters in their own right and they get to move the plot along.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, May 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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