The word ‘quirky’ can be very overused, but it seems the most apt work for this fun murder-mystery novel where our detectives are Aubrey, a rescue cat, accompanied by Maudie, a ghost who appears to live up the chimney. This is the second in Alison O’Leary’s books about Aubrey, who lives with a young couple who seem to specialise in waifs and strays. The change of scene to a country setting, comes about because Jeremy is exhausted by St Frank’s, the difficult school he teaches at. When the chance of a school swap to a small village comes up, with country cottage, it’s too good to turn down. So, the couple, their foster child Carlos and Aubrey all make the move imagining a more peaceful life. However, village life is not always as peaceful as city dwellers might expect and it’s not long before Aubrey is sleuthing away.
At first I was a little bit sceptical about a story from a cat’s point of view, but it really does work. Aubrey is an intelligent, alert, and brave little fellow with a lot of respect and empathy for people and his fellow cats. He soon makes friends in the village, particularly with Trevor, but he always seems to know where a human needs him. It’s not long before there’s disconcerting news about a cat murderer who has already claimed a couple of victims. I loved how the cats come together to patrol the village and root out any unsavoury characters hanging round after dark. Aubrey is elected to talk the group of cats who reside at the recycling plant – the village cats decide it’s better that way because Aubrey’s new and has no history with them. He soon has them on side and cat watch begins. This isn’t the only dangerous individual around, at the village fete local the school master is attacked with a knife and dies from his injuries. Harold and his wife Lucinda are regarded by most villagers as eccentrics who run an alternative boarding school on the outskirts of the village. However, no one can think of a reason for anyone to do Harold harm. In fact, Carlos has surprised his guardians Jeremy and Molly, by showing a distinct interest in the flora and fauna of the countryside – albeit having more to do with the alluring Teddy, one of Harold’s pupils teaching him. She is one of only two pupils left since the murder and doesn’t relish leaving the rather loose and creative school philosophy she’s used to.
Jeremy becomes further embroiled through a shy, reclusive villager called Morris (another waif and stray) who most people think of as a scruffy, but amiable drunk. When suspicion falls his way, and local kids start to make a nuisance of themselves by throwing things at his house, Jeremy goes round and makes sure he’s okay. Aubrey visits him too, with Maudie in tow, and passes time by the fireside to give him some company. He finds that if he sits and gives people time, they tend to talk to him and all manner of secrets might be revealed. This mystery deepens with a lady who visits Morris, but also strolls up to the gate at Molly and Jeremy’s but never comes in. What is her link to the village and to Morris? Added I found myself wondering who Maudie is and whether she’s linked in any way? Neither did I trust Quentin – a rather loathsome individual given to pastel coloured cashmere sweaters knotted across his shoulders. He is the teacher who swapped his cottage and job with Jeremy, but did he have ulterior motives for doing so? I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure with Aubrey and I think anyone who has or loves cats would love this book. Just one question though – is it wrong that I was more invested in the cat killer than Harold’s murderer?
Meet The Author
I was born in London and spent my teenage years in Hertfordshire where I spent large amounts of time reading novels, watching daytime television and avoiding school. Failing to gain any qualifications in science whatsoever, the dream of being a forensic scientist collided with reality when a careers teacher suggested that I might like to work in a shop. I don’t think she meant Harrods. Later studying law, I decided to teach rather than go into practice and have spent many years teaching mainly criminal law and criminology to young people and adults.
I enjoy reading crime novels, doing crosswords, and drinking wine. Not necessarily in that order.
Publication date: 23 February 2021