When I saw the publisher’s description of Sticks & Stones, it sounded reminiscent of Janet Evanovich’s and Lisa Lutz’s novels. Sticks & Stones is the second book in the Cat DeLuca mystery series by K.J. Larsen. It works fine as a stand-alone novel, so no worries on not having read the first book.
To give you an idea of the writing quality, Book #1 in the series, Liar, Liar, was named one of 2010’s best mysteries by Library Journal. K.J. Larsen is actually the pseudonym for three sisters who are writing the series together. Normally I’m not thrilled about design by committee but in this case it not only works but it works very well. If you’re fond of mysteries series with wacky, offbeat humor then you’ll want to check this one out.
Catarina (Cat) DeLuca had a lying, cheating husband, Johnnie Rizzo. Since she became an expert at all the signs during her marriage to this serial cheater, when she divorced him she decided to open the Pants on Fire Detective Agency in Chicago – “We catch liars and cheats.” Her sidekick is her beagle, Inga.
“There are telltale signs of a cheater…I know these things because it was two short months into my marriage when the tweezers came out. My unholy union with run-around Johnnie Rizzo was a crash course in infidelity. But I have to tell you, it was good training for what I do best.”
It’s a pretty good business and she’s doing fairly well, even if she does have to call on her family for help now and then. You see she has the fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, of coming from a family of Italian cops, and all of her brothers think they know better how to run her life than she does.
Cat’s apprentice, Cleo Jones, is an ex-client who also had a lying, cheating husband. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, especially when her husband is cheating with her own skank of a sister, so Cleo shot Walter in the butt with a load of buckshot. Walter promptly took off with Cleo’s traitorous sister, all their money and Cleo’s much beloved dog. Cleo was more heartbroken over losing her dog than Walter the jerk. Still she can’t let the betrayal go and is very vocal to anyone who will listen about what she will do to Walter if she ever finds him.
“’I hate to shock you, Cat, but people thinking I am unbalanced is no newsflash. Besides, what else could I do? I had to call out his lying, cheating, sneaking around, dog-stealing ass.’”
When Cleo shows up with Walter’s car, Cat decides it’s a great opportunity for some B&E training with the possible result of getting Cleo’s dog back. Fortunately, when they enter Walter’s Bridgeport house with Inga, they find Cleo’s beloved Tibetan Terrier, Beau. They also find a bag full of money in the closet that Cleo promptly takes. Unfortunately, after the affectionate reunion, they find blood on Beau’s fur and that evidence leads Cat to find Walter, dead as a doornail upstairs.
“There were blood and beagle prints everywhere. Great. The Pants on Fire Detective Agency was first to discover a grisly homicide and we contaminated the crap out of the crime scene…Cleo’s lip trembled. ’Why’d you always have to piss people off? I warned you you’d get yourself killed. You made me so mad I could’ve killed you myself.’ I grabbed Cleo by the shoulders and shook her. ‘Now would be a really good time to quit saying that.’”
When Cat calls 911 and the cops show up, Cleo is promptly arrested. It’s going to be up to Cat to prove Cleo didn’t murder Walter because the cops don’t plan to look any further for the murderer. It’s not going to be easy to prove she didn’t do it since Cleo has quite a reputation as a nut job, thanks to shooting Walter in the butt. To make it even worse, half the neighbors and the cops have seen and heard her threaten to kill him on more than one occasion. It seems Cleo’s big mouth is going to be her worst enemy. Even Cat’s own family thinks she should just walk away because they can’t believe Cleo could possibly be innocent.
“’I’ll tell you what I’ve got. I’ve got a freakin’ headache from her screeching voice. I got seven witnesses who heard her threaten to murder him. I got a restraining order issued six years ago by an ex-boyfriend who says she assaulted him with a frying pan.’ Oh that Cleo was full of surprises.”
Soon Cat goes from fearing she’ll never find a suspect to being up to her eyeballs in people who wanted to kill Walter. It seems it’s easier to find people who wanted to do him in than people who didn’t. Now what? Can Uncle Joey and Cat’s boyfriend, FBI Agent Chance Savino, help her find the real murderer without her becoming the next victim?
I thoroughly enjoyed the banter and humor in Sticks & Stones but it’s also got really good mystery chops. Humor wouldn’t mean anything if the mystery didn’t keep me reading late into the night. If you’re a fan of this type of mystery then I predict you’ll be very happy to have found this series!
Sticks & Stones will be released on February 7, 2012 but it should be available for pre-order from your favorite bookseller below. Just click the button to go there to order it.
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