Please help me welcome my last special guest of 2014! Toni LoTempio’s Meow If It’s Murder was released this month and it will leave you purring for more!
Why a Cat?
I’ve had quite a few people ask me why I chose to write a mystery series about a cat.
Well, the answer’s simple. I didn’t actually choose to do it…
I’ve been writing for most of my life, but never with an eye for publication until 1997. There followed a flurry of writing books – mostly my favorite genre, horror, where I tried very hard to be the next Stephen King. I ended up getting a few published, but through a small press. I still wasn’t where I wanted to be.
Next I started writing paranormals – mostly paranormal mysteries. Alas, I was informed by many of the agents I approached that the market for paranormals – especially those that featured vampires – was over-saturated. Another dead end.
So I turned to self publishing.
I published a few of my paranormal mysteries via Amazon and Barnes and Noble. They got pretty good reviews, but nothing really stellar. I still hadn’t found my niche. And then….
I was at my day job one morning, sitting in my boss’s office. He knew my hobby was writing and I was telling him about the latest one I’d written that was ‘making the rounds’ at agent offices. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Why don’t you quit writing about vampires and werewolves and write a book about your damn cat?”
Me: “But I like to write about vampires and werewolves.”
My boss: But it isn’t getting you anywhere. You love that cat and you love to write. I think you should think about it.
I went home that night and thought about it. I’d recently acquired a tuxedo cat, ROCCO, who had a feisty personality – so much so that I’d created a blog entitled cats, books and more cats, and I’d just developed what I though was a creative premise – I’d interview authors as if the cat were the one asking the questions. I’d gotten Janet Evanovich to agree to an interview and I’d just also gotten in touch with a few other authors who all thought the idea was “cute”.
Hm….maybe my boss had something there? But what sort of book could I write that would feature a cat? It had to have something to do with food, I thought. People love books with recipes!
I lay down on my couch and flipped through the channels. Turner classic was running “The Thin Man”. And suddenly the premise came to me…Nora Charles, ex-crime reporter, returns to her hometown of Cruz, California to take over her mother’s sandwich shop and finds a stocky, tuxedo cat on her doorstep, whom she names Nick. As it turns out, the cat’s original owner was a Nick, too, and he was a private eye….and thus were born the Nick and Nora mysteries.
Although the original premise was a LOT different from the book Penguin bought…but that’s a story for another day!
Here’s a little snippet from Meow If It’s Murder
by Toni LoTempio
I put the phone down and leaned back, laced my hands behind my head. The key to all this, I felt certain, was finding someone willing to come clean about what really happened on the yacht that night. From my experience, there was no way all those people were telling the truth. One – or maybe more – was lying.
What I needed to do was figure out who and more importantly, why.
I stood up, stretched, and put down the top on the computer. Nick watched me with his unblinking golden eyes.
“My next move should be to question the other three, see what they have to say about that night. That’s going to require some thought. After all, it’s not like we hang out in the same circles, or that they even frequent Hot Bread for lunch. I can’t just run into them you know.”
Nick jumped up on the counter. His plume of a tail swished, knocking over the plastic case containing my catering menus. They scattered to the floor like autumn leaves. I sighed, bent to retrieve them, then suddenly straightened. I hurried over to the old rolltop desk in the corner, jerked open the bottom drawer where my mother’s impeccable catering records were kept. I thumbed through the folders, and a little cry of triumph escaped my lips as I pulled out one marked KMG. Sure enough, inside were two neatly drawn contracts, bearing both my mother’s signature and that of Lola Grainger, for Hot Bread to cater two of their upcoming company events. I glanced over at Nick, sitting calmly on the counter, licking one paw.
“I get it,” I murmured. “Good point. Now that Lola’s dead, what happens with these contracts?”
I shoved the file folder under one arm and patted Nick on the head. I figured now was as good a time as any to find out.
Meow If It’s Murder
(Nick and Nora Mysteries Book 1)
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (December 2, 2014)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by George Long
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
E-Book File Size: 1260 KB
Nora Charles doesn’t believe in fate, even if she is a crime reporter who shares a name with a character from The Thin Man. In fact, she’s moving back to Cruz, California, to have a quieter life. But after finding an online magazine eager for material, and a stray cat named Nick with a talent for detection, Nora’s not just reporting crimes again. She’s uncovering them…
Back in her hometown, Nora reconnects with old friends and makes some new ones, like Nick, the charming feline who seems determined to be her cat. But not everything about Cruz is friendly. Writing for a local online magazine, Nora investigates the curious death of socialite Lola Grainger. Though it was deemed an accident, Nora suspects foul play. And it seems that her cat does too.
Apparently, Nick used to belong to a P.I. who disappeared while investigating Lola Grainger’s death. The coincidence is spooky, but not as spooky as the clues Nick spells out for her with Scrabble letters—clues that lead her down an increasingly dangerous path. Whether fate put her on this case or not, solving it will take all of Nora’s wits, and maybe a few of Nick’s nine lives.
I had not thought about The Thin Man movies in ages but I have to say Toni LoTempio has done them proud with her twist to use them as the basis of her new cozy series. In this case Nora isn’t quite so “ditzy” and Nick happens to be a very smart and intuitive cat and together they make a great team.
Nora has come home to Cruz to take over her mother’s sandwich shop but true crime reporting is in her blood and she can’t let it go. Everything about the investigation into Lola Grainger’s death feels wrong to Nora and she just can’t stop herself from doing a little investigating herself. When she finds out her new cat’s previous owner was a P.I. investigating the death and he has since mysteriously disappeared she jumps in with both paws, I mean feet. This is dangerous both for her and her new feline friend.
This story is full of twists and had it not been for Nick (the cat) helping her with the clues I don’t think Nora would have figured it out. It is not blatantly spelled out but I think this cat is more than he appears to be. I think he is a special cat that takes on the spirit of his previous owner. When he belonged to Nick, the private eye, his name was Sherlock. I wonder who his owner was before Nick, maybe Mr. Holmes? I am very interested to see if the author addresses this in future installments. He is definitely a special cat with special powers regular kitty cats do not possess. Daniel Corleone is also a very interesting character that I want to get to know better.
The author has laid a nice foundation for the series going forward. There were many parts that drew directly from the original Thin Man and tested my memory, but you do not have to be familiar with the movies or the original story by Dashiell Hammett to enjoy this story. Nick and Nora are off to a great start. I am excited to see what crime they investigate next.
Note: The Thin Man was on Turner Classic Movies Saturday night. I recorded it to watch at a later date and I see it is on again later this month. After reading this book I am excited to watch this oldie but goodie 🙂
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”