Thursday, April 02, 2009

Mystery Book Review: Probable Claws by Clea Simon

Mysterious Reviews, mysteries reviewed by the Hidden Staircase Mystery Books, is publishing a new review of Probable Claws by Clea Simon. For our blog readers, we are printing it first here in advance of its publication on our website.

Probable Claws by Clea Simon

A Theda Krakow Mystery

Poisoned Pen Press (Hardcover)
ISBN-10: 1-59058-565-8 (1590585658)
ISBN-13: 978-1-59058-565-8 (9781590585658)
Publication Date: April 2009
List Price: $24.95

Review: Freelance music journalist Theda Krakow is arrested for the murder of an animal shelter veterinarian in Probable Claws, the fourth mystery in this series by Clea Simon.

Theda has a wide sphere of friends but they all have something in common: their love of cats. One friend, Rachel, is the veterinarian at the local animal shelter. Another friend, Violet, manages the Helmhold House for Wayward Cats. When it becomes apparent that many of the cats at the Helmhold House are very ill, Violet calls Theda. They come to the conclusion that a bag of kibble bits cat food may be contaminated. Theda takes a sample to Rachel for testing who determines it was tainted with some kind of alkaloid. Someone accidently or intentionally dropped cocoa or chocolate, or some derivative thereof, into the bag of kibble bits. There have been widespread threats against the shelters: some to get rid of all animals that freely roam the streets, some to stop killing animals. Even bomb threats have been received. Someone may have made good one of those threats. When Theda returns to Rachel’s office to pick up her special "tuxedo" cat Musetta, she walks into the lab to find Rachel dying, stabbed with a scalpel. While trying to understand Rachel’s last words, a vet tech had heard Theda scream and runs in to find her holding Rachel’s body with the bloody murder weapon in her hand.

Theda is arrested, released on bail, and loses her job all within a few days. She and Bill, her ex-cop boyfriend, have been having problems too. Bill is willing to help, but his work keeps him busy most days and nights giving them not too much time for a lot of talk about what has passed and what’s to be in the future. Bill urges her to let the police do their job. But Theda wants to do a little snooping to find the killer as she believes the police have not started a search since they have her as a prime suspect. This involves Theda looking into animal shelter politics and threats, and questioning her friends at the city shelter. She has to juggle the time she has between Bill, Musetta, her friends, wanting to get her job back, and finding clues to the killer before she becomes a target herself.

The well-developed plot of Probable Claws keeps the reader guessing. There are a surprising number of suspects to consider, some less obvious than others. Theda is an interesting amateur sleuth with plenty of conflict in her life, but she balances her priorities very well. And it's hard not to enjoy the interaction Theda has with her cats, in particular Musetta. While cat lovers will be drawn to Probable Claws for its feline characters, it's the overall book itself that will have mystery readers looking forward to the next in the series.

Special thanks to guest reviewer Betty of The Betz Review for contributing her review of Probable Claws and to Poisoned Pen Press for providing an ARC of the book for this review.

Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved.

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Synopsis (from the publisher): When cats start getting sick, feline-loving freelance writer Theda Krakow suspects an accident is to blame. But her shelter-owning rocker buddy Violet claims the contaminated kibble was poisoned.

When Theda starts looking at shelter politics she finds a number of people who could have happily committed this heinous crime. The city shelter may be backing down from a healthy pet initiative, a series of threatening letters suggests a darker motive, and old-fashioned jealousy may factor in as well. The pressure mounts as Theda’s editor grabs onto the idea of a hot story—and dangles a prime job as bait.

But how can Theda investigate when feelings run so high?

As the music scene rallies to raise funds to save the cats, Theda finds herself on the outs with both her buddies and her longtime boyfriend Bill.

And when she’s caught at a murder scene, bloody scalpel in hand and only her beloved cat Musetta as a witness to what really happened, Theda must scramble to find the real killer before she, and Musetta, become the next victims.

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  1. Sounds like a great book. Thanks to Betty for sharing her review.

  2. Thank you for reading, Betty! As much as I love cats, I do want non-cat lovers to enjoy my books, too, and it sounds like with this one maybe I got it right. Thanks so much!! (And keep an eye out for "Shades of Grey" from Severn House this fall!)

    Clea SImon



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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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