Minnie Hamilton, a librarian working in the public library of a Michigan resort town, is followed home by a cat one day. Unable to get rid of her little shadow, she decides to take him in, and she names him Eddie.
Eddie’s got an adventurous spirit, and on the first day that Minnie is set to operate her library’s new bookmobile, the cat decides to tag along, stealthily following Minnie on her walk to work. She’s already running late, so she can’t drop him back off at home before starting her route. Reluctantly, she brings him along.
At the last top of their route, Eddie darts out of the bookmobile and into the woods, where he and Minnie find the body of Stan Larabee, the wealthy man whose generous donation made the bookmobile possible.
When Stan’s death is declared a homicide, will Minnie’s life also be in danger? And with little evidence, will anyone be able to find the killer?
Lending a Paw was written by Laurie Cass and is the first in the series “Bookmobile Cat Mysteries.” It was published in December 2013 by Obsidian, an imprint of the New American Library division of Penguin Group.
I rated this book 4/5 stars on Goodreads. If half-stars were an option, I would have given it a 3.5, but since I did enjoy reading it enough to finish it in a single day I opted for the higher score.
The reason I would down-rate this to 3.5 is largely because of the pacing. Until the final few chapters, the stakes aren’t very high for our protagonist. Her own life isn’t in danger, and she seems only half-committed to searching for Stan’s killer for at least the first half of the novel. She’s been asked by a coworker, a suspect in the case, to help track down the truth. She does so, but without the enthusiastic, fearless sleuthing that I’m used to seeing in books of this type. All of the action is saved for the novel’s end, meaning that the mystery is wrapped up very abruptly.
That being said, the relationship between Minnie and her cat, Eddie, is a great focal point for the series and I really enjoyed these two main characters. (Yes, I consider the cat to be a main character. His only dialogue comes in variations of “Mrr,” but he has a big personality.) Book lovers and librarians will appreciate the fact that Minnie’s career as an assistant library director at a small public library plays a large part in the story.
I also enjoyed this book as a Michigander. Minnie is from the metro Detroit area and is living in a small Up North town – both environments which I’m very familiar with. Chilson is a fictional place, but Laurie Cass captures the feel of a small northern Michigan town quite well, and plenty of references are thrown in to other Michigan trademarks: our wonderful apples, the Greenfield Village in Dearborn, etc.
On the blog, I’ve occasionally discussed Denise Grover Swank’s “Rose Gardner Mysteries,” and have made a post about how I thought those books should be adapted for the screen. Lending a Paw and the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries would, I think, make for a better television show than a film. There are plenty of crime shows already airing but relatively few of them are mystery-comedies, and none of them have a precious cat or a librarian as a main character. The stakes could be raised by packing a new mystery into each episode, or the mysteries could make for multi-episode arcs. With the right cast, it would make for a fun watch.