Librarian Minnie Hamilton spreads the joy of reading throughout Chilson, Michigan, with her bookmobile, but she doesn't ride alone. Her rescue cat, Eddie, and a group of volunteers are always on board to deliver cheer-until one of her helpers gets checked out for good . . .
When Minnie loses a grant that was supposed to keep the bookmobile running, she's worried her pet project could come to its final page. But she's determined to keep her patrons-and Eddie's fans-happy and well read. She just needs her boss, Stephen to see things her way, and make sure he doesn't see Eddie. The library director doesn't exactly know about the bookmobile's furry co-pilot.
But when a volunteer dies on the bookmobile's route, Minnie finds her traveling library in an even more precarious position. Although the death was originally ruled a hunting accident, a growing stack of clues is pointing towards murder. It's up to Minnie and Eddie to find the killer, and fast-before the best chapter of her life comes to a messy close . . .
About the Author
Laurie Cass is the nationally bestselling author of the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries. She lives on a lake in northern Michigan with her husband and two cats.
Erin Bennett is an award-winning, Los Angeles-based voice actress whose passion for storytelling informs her love of narrating audiobooks. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, she has recorded titles in a wide array of genres. Her voice-over work spans animation, radio plays for the BBC, video games, and commercials.
Read an Excerpt
Praise for the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries
Also by Laurie Cass
Some people are practically born knowing what they want to do with their lives. People like my older brother, who had his life plan scrawled out on a piece of paper by age seven, are the kind of folks who move from one goal to another, ticking things off their lists and achieving Big Things.
Other people wander through their early years without a clear path in mind, but still end up where they should have been all along. These would be people like my best friend, Kristen, who enjoyed high school chemistry so much that when the college-major decision came up, biochemistry seemed the obvious choice, and she ended up with a PhD. As it turned out, however, she did not enjoy working for a large pharmaceutical company, so she quit, came home to northern Michigan, kicked around ideas about what to do with the rest of her life, and opened up Three Seasons, which quickly became one of the finest restaurants in the region.
Then there’s me.
From age ten I knew I wanted to be a librarian, but beyond that I had no course charted out for my life. When I found a posting for assistant director at the district library in Chilson, Michigan, not long after I was handed my master’s degree in library and information science, though, I felt a ping of fate.
Chilson is a small tourist town in the northwest part of Michigan’s lower peninsula. It was where I’d spent childhood summers with my aunt Frances. It was where I’d met Kristen. It is a land of lakes and hills and has a laid-back atmosphere where “business casual” means “clean jeans and a shirt without too many wrinkles.” It was my favorite place in the entire world, and getting my dream job in a dream location was something I could not possibly have planned.
Of course, there were drawbacks, and that wasn’t even counting the facts that at thirty-three I was never going to grow past the five-foot mark, that my curly black hair was never going to straighten, and that I didn’t know how my beloved new bookmobile would handle the upcoming winter.
“He’s doing it again, Minnie,” Aunt Frances said.
We were sitting in her kitchen, because although the dining room that overlooked the tree-filled backyard was a lovely place to eat during the warm months, when the weather grew cooler, chill drafts curled around our ankles and the two of us beat a happy retreat to the warmth of the kitchen.
In summer, though, the kitchen wasn’t nearly big enough, because in June through August my aunt took in boarders. Six, to be exact: three female and three male, each of whom was single and unattached.
My aunt had an extensive interview process for her summer folks. Though she told the prospective boarders that she wanted to determine compatibility for the unusual living arrangements (the boarders cooked Saturday breakfast), she was actually starting her process of secret matchmaking. No one ever knew that they were being set up, and, in her years of taking in boarders, she’d failed only once, and even that wasn’t a complete failure.
But that had been last summer, back in the days of warmth and sunshine and a town busy with tourists. Now, in early November, the summer residents were long gone, the tourists wouldn’t be back until late May, and my aunt and I were rattling around in a house far too big for two, even with most of the upstairs rooms closed off.
Of course, sometimes it wasn’t nearly big enough for three, considering the nature of the third.
“Do you hear him?” Aunt Frances asked.
I did. I started to stand, but she waved me down. “Finish your breakfast. I’ll clean up his mess after the two of you leave. It’s not—”
Eddie, my black-and-white tabby cat, padded into the room and jumped onto my lap. His head poked up over the tabletop and he reached forward.
“Not a chance, pal.” I moved the bowl of oatmeal out of his reach. “You know the rules.”
Aunt Frances laughed. “He may know the rules, but I don’t think he has any intention of following them.”
Gently, I pushed at his head, trying to make him lie down, but he pushed it back up.
Down I pushed.
Up he came.
“You know he’s going to win,” Aunt Frances said.
“Shhh, don’t let him know.”
“From the noises we just heard, I’d say he already won the battle with the toilet paper.”
In summer, I lived at a marina on a small houseboat, but Eddie and I moved to the boardinghouse after my aunt’s guests were gone and the weather started to turn. Since then, Eddie had discovered that his new favorite toy was the roll of toilet paper in the kitchen’s half bath. And to Eddie, a toy couldn’t be a favorite unless he did his best to destroy it. Happily, toilet paper wasn’t expensive. At least in small quantities.
“You know,” I told the top of his head, “even things that aren’t expensive can get that way if you have to buy them new every day.”
Eddie had gone through bouts of destructiveness with paper products all summer long, and it looked as if the trend was going to continue. What he’d be like in the winter, I didn’t know, because I’d only had Eddie since late April.
I’d gone for a walk on an unseasonably warm day and found myself wandering through the local cemetery, enjoying the view of Janay Lake. My calm reverie had been broken by the appearance of a cat, who had materialized next to the gravesite of Alonzo Tillotson, born 1847, died 1926.
Though I’d assumed the cat had a home and had tried to shoo him away, he’d followed me back into town and charmed the socks off me by purring and rubbing up against my ankles.
I’d taken him to the vet, where I’d been told that my new friend was about two years old and needed ear drops. I’d run a Found notice in the newspaper, but even though I’d dutifully paid for a normal-sized advertisement instead of the tiny one I would have preferred, no one had called. Eddie was mine.
Or I was his. One of those.
“I’ll stop and stock up on my way home.” I got up and took our dishes to the white porcelain sink, which was so old it was trendy again. I’d seen similar ones in antiques stores selling for bizarrely large sums of money and realized that my aunt could make a fortune by taking the boardinghouse apart and selling it bit by bit. Of course, then she wouldn’t have anywhere to live. Besides, she loved the place, despite its drafty windows and problematic plumbing. And so did I.
“Do we need anything else from the store?” There was no answer. I looked over my shoulder and saw Aunt Frances still sitting, her elbows planted on the old oak table, her chin in her hands and her gaze on Eddie.
My cat was sitting in the middle of the spot I’d vacated. He was looking back at Aunt Frances with an intense, yellow-eyed stare. I knew that stare well, and it often meant trouble.
“You know,” my aunt said in a faraway voice, “I think it would be nice to get Eddie his own chair.”
Trouble, my friends, right here in the boardinghouse kitchen.
I went back to the table and gave my feline friend a gentle push, sending him to the floor. Aunt Frances started to protest, but I shook my head. “He got you again,” I said. “Beware of the power of the cat. He was trying to convince you to cater to his every whim, and he would have sucked you in if I hadn’t interfered.”
Aunt Frances laughed and got up from the table. I could tell she didn’t quite believe me. Well, I didn’t quite believe me, either, but what other explanation was there for lying awake in the middle of the night, desperately wanting to straighten your legs but not doing so because straightening them would disturb a cat’s sleep? I also didn’t believe that Eddie’s brain grasped more than a handful of human words, but there were times when it seemed as if he understood life better than I did.
My aunt, being eight inches taller than I, was a much better candidate for putting away the dishes, so I washed while she dried.
“Did you get a card from Kristen yesterday?” Aunt Frances asked.
I grinned. Indeed, I had. My best friend worked hard in her restaurant from spring through fall, then hightailed it south. The restaurant’s closing date had more to do with the weather forecast than anything else, and she studied the early-snowfall predictions of the Farmer’s Almanac all summer.
One mid-October morning, she’d tromped into the library and flung herself into my office’s guest chair. “I’m out of here,” she’d announced.
I’d glanced up from my computer. “A little early, isn’t it?” She didn’t usually close the restaurant until the first week of November. Then she drove to Key West, where she tended bar on the weekends and did absolutely nothing during the week. Come spring, after I e-mailed her pictures of melted snow and ice-free lakes, she would return, refreshed and ready for another summer of hard work. It wasn’t a life I would have wanted, but it suited her perfectly. “What’s the rush?” I asked.
She slouched in the chair, sticking her long legs out into the middle of the room. At six foot, with straight blond hair, Kristen was my physical opposite. We were opposites in other ways, too, come to think of it, the most obvious of which was that I wasn’t interested in cooking anything more complicated than canned soup, while about the only food Kristen didn’t try to improve was an apple. And even then she’d often slice it up, add a touch of lemon juice, and serve it with chunks of a cheese variety I couldn’t pronounce.
“Supposed to snow week after next,” she said. “I’ve talked it over with the staff, and they’re okay with closing down early. It was a good summer, but ‘good’ means ‘a lot of work.’ They’re tired, and I don’t want to push them.”
It wasn’t just her staff that was tired. I studied the droop of her broad shoulders and the fatigue scoring lines into her face.
“What about Scruffy?” I asked.
Last summer, I’d accidentally started a romance between Kristen and Scruffy Gronkowski, a very nice man who was anything but untidy. He was the only person I knew under the age of sixty who took the time to iron creases into his pants, and he was also the producer of a cooking show that was occasionally filmed in Chilson because the host, Trock Farrand, owned a house nearby.
She grinned. “He’s at Trock’s house, trying to figure out how to fit my restaurant into next year’s schedule.”
Jumping to my feet, I flung my arms out and ran to her, shrieking for joy all the way. She laughed and hugged me hard. “Mid-July, he thinks, so it could be a nutso-busy zoo the rest of the summer.”
Kristen’s restaurant was doing well, but having it appear on a national cooking show could zoom it past the marginally profitable zone and into a place where she could think about hiring a manager. Not that she would—she was too hands-on—but there’s a big difference between not wanting to and not being able to.
“And how does Mr. Scruff feel about your Key West destination?” I asked.
She looked at me, all wide-eyed and innocent, a look she hadn’t been able to pull off even when she had been innocent. “Oh, I didn’t tell you? He’s planning to come down for Christmas.”
I whistled. Or tried to. Whistling wasn’t one of my most developed skills. “That sounds serious.”
“Now, don’t go all wedding dress on me,” Kristen said. “My mother’s bad enough. Scruffy just hates the snow.” And that was all she’d say, no matter how sneaky I was about trying to get more information out of her.
The night before she left, we sat in her restaurant’s empty kitchen, eating the last crème brûlée in the place and drinking a bottle of her best champagne.
“Postcards,” she said suddenly.
Since we’d been guessing how long the new downtown gift shop would last—my estimate was less than a year—I blinked at her. “What?”
“Postcards. Key West is full of them.” She topped off our glasses with more bubbly. “I’ll send you a postcard every week.” She smiled, showing her white teeth, and for a moment she bore a striking resemblance to a great white shark.
“A Scruffy report?” I asked. We’d be e-mailing or texting practically every day, but the thought of getting a postcard in my mailbox was appealing.
“Maybe. But only if I get Tucker updates.”
The good-looking, blond, and tall (but not too tall) Dr. Tucker Kleinow and I had been dating since last summer. Though we’d hit a stumbling block when we discovered his allergic reaction to cats in general and Eddie in particular, our relationship was progressing nicely, thanks to Tucker’s willingness to take an allergy medication when he was Eddie-bound. “Deal.” I held up my glass, and we toasted our pact.
Now that I’d received two postcards, I was realizing what had lain beneath her sharklike smile. Postcard number one had been a picture of blue skies and sandy beaches. On the back she’d written Key West, a steady eighty-one degrees. Chilson, forty-five and dropping. Sucker.
Aunt Frances had stuck it up with a thumbtack on the doorframe to the living room, where, in a few weeks, it would be surrounded by Christmas cards. She was amused by the whole thing and had been wondering if Kristen would keep it up all winter.
Now I nodded toward my backpack, which was sitting on the end of the kitchen counter. “The new one’s in the outside pocket. Go ahead and take it out.”
Postcard number two had been a picture of blue skies and sandy beaches. On the back she’d written Key West, eighty degrees and sunny. Chilson, snow coming soon. Eww.
But Kristen knew that I didn’t mind winter. I actually liked it. Soft and white, it transformed the world into something completely different, something fresh and clean and unexpected.
I stood there, my hands in the soapy water, daydreaming ahead to skiing and skating and snowshoeing. All sorts of activities that started with the letter S were done on a substance that also started with an S, namely snow, and—
I jumped. “Right,” I said, nodding. “We need to get going, don’t we?”
From his perch on my chair, Eddie looked straight at me. I didn’t need a cat interpreter to know that he was saying, Well, duh.
Aunt Frances returned the last bowl to the glass-front cabinets. “Do you think Eddie would like a half wall? About so high”—she held her hand at waist level—“and about three feet long. I’ve been thinking about taking out this door between the dining room and the kitchen for some time. It’ll open up the space nicely. Maybe this is the year to do it.”
Smiling, I dried my hands on the blue-and-white hand towel. “You think?”
She eyed the area of interest. “It’s not a load-bearing wall. A sledge and a flat bar will take it down in no time. Then a little framing, a little drywall work, and a little trim. Shouldn’t take long.”
I snorted. “Have you ever heard that story about the shoemaker’s children—you know, the ones who didn’t have any shoes?”
My loving aunt whirled her drying towel into a tight spiral and popped me lightly with the end of it. “Out, you horrible child,” she said, laughing. “Out right now, or you’ll be late for work.”
And since they were both right, I grabbed my backpack, which was full of appropriate provisions for cat and human, and headed out.
* * *
I paused at the front closet to pull on my coat, boots, and gloves, and went outside into the dark of the predawn morning. But as I stepped off the wide front porch, empty of the summer swing that had been stored away, I saw that the world wasn’t completely dark.
The sky was gray and was forecast to stay that way for the foreseeable future, but the ground was covered with a light dusting of white.
My heart sang with pure pleasure. Maybe by February I’d be tired of the cold, and maybe come March I’d be tired of brushing snow off my car, but at this moment I was enchanted with the sprinkling of fairy dust.
Humming to myself, I started my car, set the defroster to high, and got the ice scraper from the floor of the backseat, where I’d put it at the end of September, because you just never knew.
The ice scraper had a long handle and a brush, and it had been a gift from my father when I’d bought my first car. He’d wrapped it himself, the bright yellow and red paper tight against the plastic, revealing the object’s shape so obviously that a five-year-old could have guessed what it was, and had handed it to me with gravitas. “Don’t ever take it out of your car,” he’d said solemnly. “Keep it in your trunk during the summer, on the floor of the backseat all winter.”
It wasn’t a bad idea—as a matter of fact, it was a pretty good one—and it had only taken me five years and one early snowstorm to start taking my dad’s advice.
As I brushed the snow off the car’s hood, I heard the sound of a door shutting. Which was odd, because it wasn’t even seven thirty, and the only year-round people in the neighborhood were retirees who tended to stay inside until the morning got as bright as it was going to get. The vast majority of homes in this part of Chilson belonged to summer people. They might come up at Thanksgiving, a week at Christmas, and perhaps Presidents’ Day weekend, but mostly the houses sat quiet and dark, waiting for the warmth of May to bring them back to life.
I turned and saw something completely unexpected.
Across the street, a figure was standing on the front porch, zipping up his coat and pulling on gloves. It was Otto Bingham, the house’s new owner. At least I assumed it was him; Aunt Frances had heard that a gentleman by that name had purchased the house a few weeks ago, but she’d never met him. Though she’d gone over to the white clapboard house two or three times to introduce herself, he’d never been home.
“Good morning!” I smiled and waved, thinking that I’d have to tell Aunt Frances that I’d had an Otto sighting. The light from the porch illuminated a man who looked, at this distance, like he was in his mid-sixties and on the bonus end of the Handsome bell curve.
“The snow’s pretty, isn’t it?” I asked.
He looked at me, squinting, then gave a curt nod and went back inside his house, shutting the door firmly behind him.
I stared after him, then shrugged. Maybe the guy hated snow, which would be silly for someone who’d just moved to this part of Michigan, but you never knew what made people do things.
Then I put thoughts of my aunt’s curmudgeonly neighbor out of my head, gave the car’s windshield one last brush, and headed back up the porch stairs for the cat carrier.
Because it was a bookmobile day, and no bookmobile day could be complete without the bookmobile cat.
* * *
“What I don’t understand,” Denise Slade said, “is why you feel the need to keep Eddie such a secret.”
I glanced over at my newest bookmobile volunteer, then went back to concentrating on my driving. When the road was wide and straight and dry, piloting the thirty-one-foot-long vehicle was a joy and a delight. However, most of the roads in Tonedagana County were narrow and curving, and today they were wet with slushy early snow. Then again, poor road conditions were part of life Up North, and I was mentally prepared to deal with whatever Mother Nature tossed my way. But I wasn’t so sure I was prepared to deal with Denise.
Denise was one of those stocky, energetic women who volunteered for multiple worthy organizations. She’d helped out with area environmental groups, she’d spent time on the local PTA, she’d baked cookies for the Red Cross blood drives, and she was now president of the local Friends of the Library, a volunteer group that raised funds for library projects and donated innumerable hours to helping out at library events.
Though she’d ruffled more than a few feathers with her take-charge attitude and her voice, which I’d heard described as the kind that goes straight into your teeth, I’d always gotten along fine with Denise.
Then again, that could have been due to the simple fact that I hadn’t spent much time with her.
“Eddie,” I said, “was a stowaway on the bookmobile’s maiden voyage. He followed me from the houseboat”—the marina where I moored the boat in summer was a ten-minute walk from the library— “and snuck on board when I was out doing the morning inspection.”
“Well, I know all that.” Denise looked at the cat carrier strapped down next to her feet. “And I know that you didn’t take him out again until that poor little Brynn Wilbanks cried to see the bookmobile kitty.” She paused and slid a glance over to me. “How is she these days?”
“Great,” I said, smiling. “She’s doing just great.” My smile filled me to overflowing, because five-year-old Brynn was still in remission from leukemia. She was doing so well that her mother had enrolled her in kindergarten, and the bookmobile would soon be making a stop at Brynn’s elementary school.
“Good to hear.” Denise nodded. “So, I get why Eddie started coming on the bookmobile, what with Brynn and so many other people liking him. What I don’t get is why you have to keep him a secret from your boss. Keeping secrets from Stephen is a bad idea, Minnie. Trust me on this one.”
I stifled a sigh and yearned for what could not be. My summer volunteer, Thessie, had been a perfect match for the bookmobile, for Eddie, and for me. She was funny, intelligent, and tall enough to reach the bookmobile’s top shelves without having to get on her tiptoes. She was also a senior in high school and aiming for a college major in library science. Bookmobile life would be perfect if Thessie would only drop out of school. If only she would bury her ambitions, to ride on the bookmobile for no pay and no benefits and absolutely no future.
“What’s so funny?” Denise asked.
“Just trying to picture Stephen covered with Eddie hair.”
She leaned forward and reached through the wire door to pet the feline under discussion. “You do have a lot of it, Mr. Edward.”
Hmm. Denise was a little pushy and a little too sure of herself when the circumstances didn’t warrant it, but she was a cat person, and Eddie seemed to like her. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.
Denise sighed. “Well, I hope you know what you’re doing with Stephen and all. I mean, I won’t say anything to anyone, but I have to say it’s no wonder you’re having trouble getting people to volunteer. What are you going to do on the days I can’t come out? Because I can’t promise I’ll be able to come with you every time.”
My half smile faded. I stopped thinking about my stick-to-the-rules boss, a man who wore a tie to work every day even though there was no reason to do so, a man who seemed to delight in giving me unachievable goals, a man who wouldn’t blink at firing me if he found I’d been giving bookmobile rides to a creature full of hair and dander. I stopped thinking about all of that and concentrated on keeping my voice calm when I really wanted to shout. Loudly.
“Denise,” I said, “you told me you could help out until next spring. You said you had nothing else going on and that you’d be glad to help keep the bookmobile running.”
She sounded puzzled, and I glanced over. She was pushing her short, smooth brown hair back behind her ears and frowning slightly, deepening the lines that were starting to form in her face.
“Yes, you did,” I said. “Please tell me you haven’t made any other commitments. I just finished the new schedule and I don’t want to have to cancel any stops.”
Making the winter bookmobile schedule had driven me to chocolate more than once. I’d made up the summer schedule with no problems whatsoever, and had blithely assumed that fall would be the same way. My blithe spirit was no longer. Despite my best intentions, the new schedule wasn’t anywhere close to what it had been in summer. But at least I now knew to contact schools and day-care centers in May about their fall programming.
And I also knew that I really needed to find money to hire a part-time bookmobile clerk instead of relying on volunteers.
Back in the days when I’d put together the bookmobile funding and worked though operation issues, the library board had laid down one cast-in-stone rule: no driving alone. I’d agreed readily, and had been happy enough to comply with their policy. Well, I’d once had to count Eddie as my bookmobile companion, but that had been a onetime thing.
Denise laughed. “Don’t be such a worrywart. I’m going to volunteer a few hours a week at the nursing home, is all. Most of the time I’ll be able to work around the bookmobile schedule.”
Most of the time? “And what happens if you can’t?” My voice was going all Librarian. “Denise, if there aren’t two people on the bookmobile, we can’t go out. I need to know in advance if you can’t make a trip. A week, at least.”
“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’ll be fine.”
I wasn’t worrying; I was thinking.
It was easy to convince folks that the bookmobile was a worthwhile cause for volunteering; all I had to do was give them a quick tour of our three thousand books, CDs, DVDs, and magazines, and tell them about the happy smiles on every face that came aboard. Selling people on how important the bookmobile was to the hundreds of people in the county who couldn’t get to Chilson, home to the only brick-and-mortar library in the county, was the easy part.
The problem was, since Thessie had gone back to school, I’d had a number of people excited about riding along. Unfortunately, almost all had canceled for various reasons, and I’d had to cleverly winnow out a few who I felt might not keep the Eddie secret. Denise was the sole survivor.
What I needed was to hire someone. Or, more accurately, what I needed was to find the funds to hire someone. Until then, I had to rely on volunteers. And if Denise wasn’t going to be reliable, I’d have to find someone else. Only who?
Thinking hard, I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel. Thought some more. Tapped. Thought.
Then the sun broke through the clouds, skidding bright light across the countryside, and I stopped thinking so hard. It was turning into a beautiful day. Why ruin it with thinking too much?
“Wow. Did you see that?” Denise stretched forward, looking up. “That was one huge woodpecker!”
“Pileated,” I said confidently. It was a newly formed confidence, because I hadn’t known diddly about birds until I started driving the bookmobile. But now that I was out and about so much, I was using the bookmobile’s copy of Birds of Michigan on a regular basis. The two weeks when someone had checked it out had been two very long weeks.
“Really?” Denise twisted in her seat, tracking the bird. “That’s neat. I bet you see a lot of nature stuff. Have you ever come close to hitting a deer?”
“No, and I hope I never do.”
She laughed. “You mean ‘not yet.’ It’s just the way things are. And deer season starts on Saturday. When those rifle hunters get out in the woods, the deer will start moving around.”
I wasn’t going to worry about that, either.
Denise was looking around, checking out the wooded roadside. “I wish I had my book with me, that one listing where all the town and county names of Michigan came from.”
“We’re in Peck Township, right? If I had my book with me, I could look it up and see if I have any notes on it.”
“A note?” I asked.
“Well, yeah. I make notes in a lot of my books. Reminders, mostly.”
“You write in your books?”
Denise snorted. “Don’t go all Miss Librarian on me. What, I can’t do what I want with my own property? It’s not like I’m not marking up a library book.”
No, but it seemed . . . wrong, somehow.
“It helps me remember things,” Denise was saying. “Especially the long historicals. Authors just load up on the characters in those. If I didn’t make notes about who was who, I’d forever be flipping around to figure things out.”
Knowing that she was marking up works of fiction was somehow even worse than knowing what she was doing to nonfiction. Yes, they were her own books and, yes, she had the right to do what she wanted to them, but it still made me squeamish. I mean, if a person could write in a book, what else might she be capable of doing?
A road sign flashed past. “Our first stop is coming up,” I said. “Ready?”
“You bet!” Denise grinned.
Well, at least she was enthusiastic. I glanced over at Eddie. He’d shoved himself up against the side of the carrier that was the farthest possible distance from Denise and pointed his hind end in her direction.
No. I was not going to use a cat’s sleeping position as any kind of omen, good or bad.
Eddie opened one eye, used it to look up toward Denise, then closed it again. His sides heaved as he sighed.
Cats, I told myself, cannot foretell the future. This is going to be fine.
“You know,” Denise said, “what this bookmobile needs is a decent stereo system. It’s almost Thanksgiving; we should be playing Christmas songs. I just can’t get enough of ‘Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,’ right?” She sang the chorus and tried to start the first verse, but got stuck on the words and went back to the chorus.
I gave Eddie a quick look, but he’d already turned himself around so that his hind end was facing me.
* * *
At the end of the day, I couldn’t decide what I’d wanted to do more: hug Denise or put her out by the side of the road.
She’d been both amazingly helpful and incredibly annoying. Once she’d been both at the same time, a feat I hadn’t known was possible.
“This was fun,” she said.
“I’m glad you thought so.” For a moment, I considered launching into the story of the bookmobile’s origin, how Stephen, my boss and the director of the Chilson District Library, had closed the smaller satellite libraries around the county in the name of financial savings, because now that the library offered e-books, he’d said there was no need for the branches’ existence.
I’d felt differently, and had floated the idea of a bookmobile to the library board. They’d smiled at me indulgently, said it was a fine idea, and if I could come up with the money, they’d be glad to approve the program.
A few months later, I had a hefty check in hand from an extremely generous donor, and the surprised board approved the program. Stephen wasn’t so thrilled. And though it was clear he thought that the bookmobile was a waste of my time and the library’s resources, he had little choice but to go along with the board’s decision.
At the time I thought I’d won a great victory. Now reality was setting in. Stephen was continually giving me more to do at the library, a strategy I suspected was designed to take me away from the bookmobile. If I didn’t have time to drive the bookmobile, no one would drive it anywhere, because we had no funds to hire a driver, and then Stephen could sell it and pocket the check in the library’s bank account.
I sighed and decided to keep it all to myself. If Denise was excited about the bookmobile, let her keep that emotion. Maybe she’d spread it across the land, where it would seep into Chilson’s community psyche, and money would fall from the sky. Stranger things had happened, hadn’t they?
“Next left,” Denise said. “We’re the third house on the right. That’s it.”
The week before, I’d told her I could drop her off on the way back into Chilson, since the day’s return route went right past her road. It was a neighborhood of two-story homes on lots that my friend Rafe would call too big to mow and too small to farm. Denise’s husband had dropped her off at the library that morning, and it was easy enough to make a short side trip, especially since her road ended in a cul-de-sac that fit the bookmobile’s turning radius.
“See you Saturday morning,” I said.
“Bright and early.” She unbuckled her seat belt and reached forward to give Eddie a scratch through the wire door. “See you later, Eddie-gator.”
When she was gone, I looked over at my cat companion. “So, what do you think?”
His yellow eyes blinked in slow motion, but he didn’t say anything.
“That’s exactly how I feel.” I tried blinking the way Eddie did, but blinking slowly was a lot harder than I thought it would be. After two tries I gave it up and dropped the bookmobile’s transmission into drive.
“On the plus side,” I said, “we don’t have to think about her again for four days. So let’s not, okay?”
Eddie’s mouth opened and closed silently, which, since I wanted to think he was agreeing with me, I did.
“Then we’re settled. Time for a new subject.” We moved on down the road, and when we were on the two-lane county highway, I said, “How about what season is best in northern lower Michigan? Spring, summer, fall, or winter?”
I studied the countryside that lay before us. The morning’s snow had long since turned to rain and melted away the half inch of white stuff. Trees that in summer had been covered with leaves were now skeletons, revealing things that were invisible in warmer months. Houses appeared where you hadn’t realized they existed, long views of lakes and hills emerged, and a whole new layer of the world was coming into view.
“It’s like the skin is peeled back,” I said. “In a couple of weeks, the snow will come and cover everything up again, just like in summer the grass and trees cover things. But now, and in early spring before things turn green, the bones are showing.”
I was proud of my insight. It was almost poetic, really. Eddie, however, was snoring.
Until Eddie, I’d never known that cats were capable of snoring. Now I knew better. At least once a week I’d wake from a deep sleep to hear the not-so-dulcet tones of Felis eddicus, the species I’d decided was unique to Eddie.
There was still a short drive to town, so I went back to thinking about the seasons. Silently this time.
Winter was fun because of skiing and the sheer beauty of snow. Spring was fun because of watching the world turn green. Summer was fun because of the breathtaking freedom of being outside in shorts and a T-shirt, plus all my marina friends were back and the boardinghouse was full of new people to meet. And then we were back to fall, which was easy to love for its stunning colors and crisp mornings.
“Hey,” I said, waking Eddie. “You know what? I don’t have to decide which season I like best. I don’t have to choose. I can like them all!”
Eddie sneezed and licked his face. “Mrr,” he said.
The next morning I left Eddie at home, to his great disgruntlement. Even Aunt Frances noticed his grumpiness.
“What’s with him?” she asked, nodding toward his back feet, which were thumping up the stairs. If past performance was any indication of the imminent future, in a few seconds he would jump on my bed, stand in the middle as he viewed the pillow selection, then flop down onto the one that offered the highest likelihood of Eddie comfort.
I showed Aunt Frances my hands, which were empty except for the mittens I’d just pulled on. “No cat carrier. He’s cranky because he thinks every day should be a bookmobile day.”
She looked up the stairs. “Would some cat treats make him feel better?”
“Sure,” I said, “but then you’d have to give him treats every morning, and he’d follow you around, asking for more, and you’d give them to him just to shut him up and he’d get fat.” I zipped up my coat. “Then we’d have to find a kitty treadmill, find a place to put it, teach him how to use it, and make sure he got at least thirty minutes of exercise every day.”
Aunt Frances handed my backpack to me. “Much easier not to give him treats in the first place, then.”
“I’m glad you understand. Now, if you could explain that to Eddie, we’ll be all set.” I headed out into the cold morning. Two steps away, I turned around and poked my head back inside. “You know,” I said, “one or two treats would be okay.”
She grinned and, from the pocket of her oversized fleece sweatshirt, pulled out a small canister of cat treats. “Three at the most.”
I left my enabling aunt and my cranky cat to their mutual devices and started my morning commute across town. Bookmobile days, due to the Eddie element, necessitated that I take my car to work, but on library days when it wasn’t pouring down rain or howling with snowy winds, I walked.
My route first took me through streets lined with trees and filled with late-nineteenth-century houses built as summer cottages. People from Chicago had steamed up Lake Michigan to spend the hot city months in the coolness provided by lake breezes. More than a few of the houses were still owned by descendants of the families who’d built them, the walls decorated with the same pictures that had been hung a hundred years earlier.
I walked west, facing the rising wind, and fought the urge to tiptoe as I passed the sleeping houses, shut up tight until spring. A few blocks later, I was out of the historical district and into the section of town where normal people lived.
This was a neighborhood of narrow two-story houses, an occasional ranch house, and large old houses divided up into apartments; these homes had lights on in the kitchens and cars in the driveways. No sleeping here; there was school to attend and jobs to drive to.
Out on a tiny front porch, a woman was bundled up in a long puffy coat and was drinking from a steaming travel mug.
“Morning, Pam,” I said. “Can I have some of your coffee?”
Pam Fazio, a fiftyish woman with smooth, short black hair, top-notch fashion sense, and an infectious laugh, clutched her mug to her chest. “Mine, mine—every drop is mine,” she growled.
I smiled. Pam, owner of a new downtown antiques store, had an uncanny ability to match product to customer. It could have made entering her shop dangerous to the wallet, but she also had an amazing knack for sensing budgets.
“Are you going to drink morning coffee on your porch all winter?” I asked. Pam had moved to town from Ohio that spring; her long-term tolerance for cold and snow was still a question mark to many.
She took a noisy sip. “Every morning that I went to work in a windowless cubicle at a large company that shall remain nameless, I vowed that I would spend an equal number of mornings on my front porch, drinking my first cup of coffee in the fresh air.”
“No matter how cold?”
“Cold?” she scoffed. “I’m not afraid of the cold. Not when I have coffee.” She put her face into the rising steam. “Ahhh.”
I laughed, waved, and started walking again. From here, downtown was only two blocks away. A left turn and then a right, and I was there: downtown Chilson in all its haphazard glory, an oddly comfortable blend of old and new architecture that attracted tourists and small-town urban planners from all across the region. But now it was the off-season, which lasted roughly eight months of the year, and business was not exactly bustling.
The only cars on the street were in front of the Round Table, the local diner. All the other storefronts were dark; many had signs taped to their front doors. CLOSED FOR THE SEASON. SEE YOU IN THE SPRING. Some of the shuttered stores were run by managers for absentee owners; others were owned by people who worked hard all summer long for the pleasure of heading to warmer climes over the winter.
My boots echoed on the empty sidewalks, which weren’t nearly wide enough in summer when all the tourists were in town. I breathed in the fresh air, drank in the view of Janay Lake, looked around at the odd mix of old and new downtown buildings that should not have complemented each other but somehow did, and thought, as I almost always did when walking to work, that I was the luckiest person alive.
I was still thinking that when I let myself into the library, kept thinking it as I logged in to my computer, had it in the back of my mind as I brewed coffee, and let it settle there to keep me company as I got to work.
Two hours later, I was forced to revise my opinion. No way could I be considered lucky if my boss was standing in my office, clutching a sheet of paper and shaking his head.
“Minerva, did you really think I was going to ignore this?”
In a perfect world—the world in which I would continue to be the luckiest person alive—yes, I would have expected him to ignore everything I wanted him to. Sadly, this was not a perfect world, and I was going to have to work hard to convince Stephen that, even though the grant I’d been promised from an area nonprofit group had vaporized when a major donor had gone bankrupt, there were still other methods of funding next year’s bookmobile operations.
“There are other possibilities,” I said.
“Possibilities of what?” he asked. “Spending even more time and money on efforts to bring a handful of books to a handful of patrons? Tell me how that’s a sensible use of the library’s extremely limited resources. We must think of the greater good, Minnie.”
At least he’d pulled back from calling me by my full name. I took that as a good omen and started marshaling my arguments. They were the same ones I’d written into the memo I’d e-mailed when I’d received the bad news about the grant, but maybe they’d be more believable if I used positive facial expressions, persuasive oratory, and hand gestures that communicated sincerity.
“Exactly,” I said, smiling and nodding. “Just like our mission statement says, we serve as a learning center for all residents of the community.” Life didn’t get much better than when I could back up my ideas with the statement Stephen had written himself.
He fluttered the e-mail again. “I don’t see the connection between that and the loss of the bookmobile funding. And your latest foray into serving homebound patrons is only going to add more cost to your operations.”
My chin started to slide forward into what my mother would have called my stubborn stance. I almost put one hand to my face to push it back. Getting red-cheeked and angry would not help my case. Logic—that’s what I needed.
“All residents,” I reminded him. “We’re supposed to be a learning center for everyone, yet some of our patrons can’t come to the library, especially in the winter months.” I glanced at the window behind me, where a light snowfall had started. Thank you, serendipity.
“That’s well and good,” Stephen said, “but we cannot operate without proper funding.”
I knew that. Of course I knew that. How could I not, when it was up to me to provide services on an annual budget that was getting smaller and smaller? For a moment, I wished fiercely for the settlement of the late Stan Larabee’s estate. Stan’s will had included a generous bequest to the library, but his relatives were contesting the will, and it was a toss-up if we’d ever see any of Stan’s intended gift.
Worse, Stephen was right. The library simply could not operate in the red. There was some money tucked away, but that was for emergencies, not regular operations. I leaned forward and put my elbows on the desk, interlocking my fingers loosely, doing my best to project confidence and wisdom.
Well, confidence, anyway.
“I’ll find the money,” I promised. “Give me a few more weeks. As you can see from my e-mail, there are a number of possibilities.” Not good ones, but still. And there was always the option of collecting returnable soda cans for the ten-cent deposit. And holding bake sales. Lots of them.
Stephen sighed. “You’re assuming a best-case scenario, and that’s a dangerous expectation.”
Once again, he was right. I took a calming breath, then started to expand on the funding possibilities. Somewhere out there, there had to be a foundation that would like nothing better than to support a bookmobile program. All I had to do was find it. “I have contacts in library systems across the country, and with—”
Stephen held out a hand. “I’ve stated my reservations. That said, the current budget amounts show approximately six months of funding for the bookmobile. I see no reason why operations can’t continue for that length of time.”
“You . . . don’t?” I blinked. “Thanks, Stephen, I really think—”
“I will also notify the board of my concerns. You can be sure that I won’t be the only one scrutinizing the monthly expenditures.”
I clutched at that a little, but only for a moment. “Don’t worry.” I smiled, happy once again. “It’ll all turn out okay.”
He looked at me straight on. “I certainly hope so.”
A small piece of my ancient lizard brain reared up, shrieking with fear, but I told it to hush and went on smiling. “Six months from now, I’m sure something will have turned up.”
“I certainly hope so.” Stephen folded up my e-mail into small squares and tucked it into his shirt pocket. “Because when the bookmobile budget runs out of gas, so does the bookmobile.” Chuckling to himself, he left my office and went up the stairs, heading to his office aerie.
“Very funny,” I said to the wake of his laughter. Stephen occasionally smiled, but he rarely laughed, and the fact that he had laughed worried me, because what it usually meant was that someone was about to get in trouble.
I leaned back in my chair to think, and, in doing so, I dislodged an Eddie hair that had been on my jacket sleeve. It wafted into the air, spun about a few times lazily—lazy? How appropriate!—and eventually dropped in the direction of the floor.
That’s when the penny, in the form of displaced Eddie fur, finally dropped.
Stephen knew about Eddie. Someone had told, and he was chuckling to himself, enjoying the two weeks until the next board meeting, when he would, without a doubt, recommend that I be fired.
“Stop worrying,” I said out loud. But I didn’t quite persuade myself that things would be okay. Stronger measures were in order, and I knew just how to get them.
I pulled my computer keyboard close, typed a quick e-mail with the words Stephen Strikes Again in the subject line, added two names, and hit the SEND button. I grabbed my coffee mug and made a beeline for the break room.
* * *
My best library friends, Holly Terpening, a part-time clerk, and Josh Hadden, the IT department, were waiting for me. Josh was a little younger than I was and Holly a little older, but the three of us had been hired about the same time, and that fact alone had cemented our work relationship into solid friendship.
Soon after our hire dates, we’d developed a pact. We would always support each other after a one-on-one with Stephen. For years I’d shored up Holly and/or Josh, but these days it was different.
“Ever since the bookmobile, I’m his favorite target,” I muttered, leaning back against the countertop.
“Works for me,” Josh said cheerfully. “He hasn’t complained about the network in months, so thanks, Minnie.”
Holly skewered him with a Mom Look. Her two smallish children had given her the skills to perfect that expression, and she used it both wisely and well. “Josh, we’re supposed to be helping, remember?” A strand of her brown hair had escaped her ponytail, and she pushed it back behind her ear.
“Ah, Minnie knows I’m joking.” He pulled a can of soda out of his cargo pants and handed it to me.
Popping the top, I thanked him and said, “I do know you’re joking. But it would help if we had a hand signal.”
I’d developed a thick skin at a young age, thanks to my efficient stature and my name (though if I never heard another Mini Minnie joke again, I would be okay with that), and had never been hesitant about going to Stephen with issues other library employees would have quailed at. As a matter of fact, I’d become such a Stephen expert that everyone now begged me to take things to the boss.
But I was no longer the golden girl. I was turning into the nearest dog to kick. Or so to speak. Because not even Stephen would kick a dog, would he?
I frowned and considered the question.
Nah. Stephen could be a royal pain in the patootie, but he wasn’t that bad.
“Here.” Holly sat at the table and reached for a plastic container. “I made a bunch last night for Anna’s kindergarten class and decided the kids didn’t need all of them.”
Holly’s chocolate-chip cookies were the stuff of legend. I pulled out a chair to sit, took one, hesitated, then took another one. “Thanks. You guys are the best.”
“Yeah, we know.” Josh thumped into a chair and reached out for a cookie. “So, what was the deal today? Too many kids in the library again? He hates that.”
Which wasn’t true—not exactly. What Stephen hated were the crumbs and dirt small children seem to inevitably leave behind. Maybe in a few more years, when the recently renovated building got a little more wear and tear, he’d relax a little. Probably not, but maybe.
I told them about his comment about the greater good.
“Seriously?” Holly looked at me over the top of her coffee mug. “That’s a horrible thing to say.”
“Well.” I shrugged. “He’s right.”
Josh snorted. “Quit being so nice, Minnie. The only thing he’s right about is . . .” With a dramatic flourish, he put his hand to his forehead and fake concentrated. “Huh. Nothing that I can think of.”
“A year ago, I did tell him I’d find operations money,” I reminded my friends. “Only Stan Larabee died and that ended that.” Now, I could see that it had been a mistake to put all my bookmobile funding eggs into a basket labeled STAN, and then a second basket labeled GRANT THAT WILL SOLVE YOUR FINANCIAL PROBLEMS FOR AT LEAST A YEAR, but there wasn’t much I could do about it at this point other than to keep searching for new grant possibilities.
I averted my mind from my two lost sources of funding. “Anyway,” I said, “we can’t take money out of the library’s regular budget to fund the bookmobile. That wouldn’t be right.”
“What’s not right,” Holly said, “is that Stephen isn’t supporting the best thing that’s happened to this library in years.”
I grinned. “You mean besides the millage that paid for the renovation of this gorgeous building?”
Excerpted from "Borrowed Crime"
Copyright © 2015 Laurie Cass.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
What People are Saying About This
Praise for the Bookmobile Cat Mysteries
“Librarian Minnie Hamilton is kindhearted, loyal, and resourceful. And her furry sidekick, Eddie, is equal parts charm and cat-titude. Fans of cozy mysteries—and cats—will want to add this series to their must-read lists.”—Sofie Kelly, New York Times bestselling author of the Magical Cats Mysteries
“A likable heroine, feisty and opinionated cat, and multi-dimensional small-town characters.”—Kings River Life Magazine
“A pleasurable, funny read. Minnie is a delight as a heroine, and Eddie could make even a staunch dog-lover more of a cat fan.”—Romantic Times
“Full of surprises...Chilson, Michigan sounds like a place many readers will want to return to again and again.”—Debbie’s Book Bag
“A pleasant read...[Minnie is] a spunky investigator.”—Gumshoe
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Minnie Hamilton and her faithful kitty companion, Eddie, are back for another adventure in Chilson, Michigan’s bookmobile. Her boss is still trying to get the bookmobile closed and Minnie is sure he would close it if he knew Eddie rides along with Minnie. So, she continues to keep it a secret and prays everyone will keep the secret too. It’s the dead of winter and Minnie has to rely on volunteers to staff the bookmobile. One of the major rules is that someone always accompany Minnie on her travels. When her recent volunteer can’t make the trip, the woman sends her husband in her place. During one of their trips, the husband dies in what is called a hunting accident. However, Minnie is beginning to suspect there’s more to this “hunting accident” than meets the eye. The man’s sister and wife are furious and blaming the library. This could be exactly what Minnie’s boss needs to close the bookmobile for good. Minnie is not about to let that happen. With the help of Eddie, they search for a killer. I love this series. I’ve loved it since the first book. Minnie is a sweet, yet strong, character. She doesn’t back down from a fight. The only one she gives into is Eddie and who can blame her? LOL I always smile when she talks to Eddie as if he’s a person. I do the same with my kitties. There’s even some romance tossed into the story. The plot flows through each page and makes for a quick read. I didn’t want to put it down. There are twists and turns as readers try to figure out whodunit along with Minnie and Eddie. This is a series where I’ve come to feel close to the characters and feel as if I’m in their small town. I hate to leave them and can’t wait for another visit to Chilson. FTC Disclosure: The publisher provided me with a copy of this book to review for this blog tour. This did not influence my thoughts and opinions in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Very entertaining, all the right ingredients for mystery and just right as a read without the off color word some have! Enjoyed them so much!!
Another good book by Laurie Cass. The book mobile is on the road with Minnie and her volunteer. One day her volunteer could not come but her husband did take her place. They were taking a break at a gas station but the volunteer did not get back on the bookmobile. Minnie went looking for him and she found him shot and he was dead. Back at the library her boss told her they were being sued by the sister of the dead man. She might lose the bookmobile because of funding, her job because of the lawsuit and it the found out about Eddie her cat who is the bookmobile cat. Minnie now feels she has to find out who killed the volunteer. All this around thanksgiving. The ending is a surprise. You will enjoy this book.
Readers looking for a great series featuring not only cats, but books, will love the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series. Laurie Cass brings readers the latest book in the series, Borrowed Crime. The fate of the bookmobile is in danger and there's murder afoot. Minnie and her cat Eddie must figure out who the killer is and how to keep the bookmobile going. This is a great new addition to the series. Cass gives readers an eclectic mix of characters and an interesting set of problems in this small town mystery! This series has some of my favorite things in it. I loved the idea of the series featuring a library and bookmobile. As a child the bookmobile was a special treat for me. I became an avid reader at an early age and the library is one of my favorite places in the world, so the setting for this one was perfect for me. Books, books and more books. For someone who loves the written word this would make a great series. I am not a cat person, yes I said it. I like dogs. However, in cozy mystery writing more times than not the primary pet that ends up in the series is a cat. And to be honest there are some really good ones. Eddie, in the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series is an interesting cat. I like the fact that Minnie considers him like she would a child. She talks to him and makes him a part of everything she does, but if her boss found out that would probably be the end of the bookmobile. I liked the fact that the fate of the bookmobile gave readers a secondary focus, besides the mystery in this one as well. The mystery was top notch in this one. Roger, takes his wife's place as a volunteer on the bookmobile, and then he ends up dead. Shot in an apparent hunting accident. When it turns out that it isn't an accident at all, Minnie and Eddie are on the trail of a killer. I thought Cass was very thoughtful with how she presented the clues. It was easy to follow the trail right along with the heroine and that is nice, sometimes they just get too complicated. Cass proves that simple is sometimes best here. Bottom Line: This is a great book and a great series. I like the interactions between the characters and the secondary focus of the bookmobile and the library. There is a lot to love here and if you are cat person, it's right up your alley. Give this one a try, you'll be glad you did!
It was a good story moved along very well. I liked the characters. Will definitely look for the next one.
Laurie Cass has written a third installment in her Bookmobile Cat Mystery series and it is total fun from start to finish! Her characters are engaging, especially Eddie, the cat. Her plot had enough twists and turns to keep the cozy reader entertained and guessing. And it has an interesting twist just before the end that surprised me. I highly recommend this series!
I love these books. I love the upbeat personality of Minnie - always trying to look at the positive side of life.
In book 3 of the Bookmobile Cat Mystery Series, we learn more about Minnie’s best friend Kristen, and Minnie closes up her houseboat for the winter and relocates to Aunt Frances’ boarding house, with (of course) Eddie. But even in the winter, the bookmobile rolls on, with Eddie as the wily mascot. Of course, someone ends up deceased, and of course Minnie is right in the thick of things. By this time, the sheriff has just about had his fill of Minnie’s meddling, but it would appear that he’s starting to take notice that she’s usually right. And what about that deputy? Will anything ever come of that? Cass just keeps getting better and better, and once again, I’m left waiting for more.
When I was a young child I remember loving the bookmobile that stopped near our house. I think that is part of what endears me to this series. Minnie Hamilton must rely on volunteers to help her staff the bookmobile, not always the most reliable way to staff something. Minnie takes on the husband of a volunteer, only to have him shot at a local stop for a restroom and food. Is it a hunting accident on the opening of deer season or is it murder? I love the interplay of library employees and Minnie, everyone seems to like Minnie and dislike Stephen the director. I am never sure of Stephen's personality, the view changes a little with this book. I love the interplay of the volunteers and Minnie. Who cannot love Eddie the cat with an opinion on everything, and those who visit the bookmobile and make it all worthwhile. The hunt for the murderer is an exciting one in this book and sometimes you think you know who did it and other times, it just doesn't fit. So of course, you must read to the end to find out who dunnit. This is the third book in the series, and while I find it necessary to read books in order, I think there would be no problem in reading this book as a stand alone.
I'll admit it took me a little longer to read this. I been taking a little break from it. And not in the mood to continue. Then finally thought, wait I like the series, so why not at least give it another read. And finally I did. 3 stars for the first half and 4 for the other half since well, the pace picks up a bit. For the most part, while I thought the pacing in the last two books, while slow isn't that bad. In this one, I don't know it just felt like the pace was slow but not in a good way? If that makes sense. But because I like the character of Minnie, Eddie and some of the other characters, I still liked this sequel. Moments where you want to give her a hug. Also that ending kind of made up for it and reminded me why I like this cozy series. Looking forward to the next mystery of Minnie, Eddie and the bookmobile.