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Cat’s Claw by Susan Wittig Albert

Through her long authorship of the China Bayles Mysteries series Susan Wittig Albert has developed a number of other interesting characters among China’s friends and associates in the small town of Pecan Springs, Texas.  She explains in the preface to the latest in the China Bayles series, “Cat’s Claw” that this book begins a departure from her strictly first person presentation to third person so she can explore these other characters more thoroughly.  Seeing everything through China’s eyes was becoming too limiting.  This was a wise move on Albert’s part.

Cat’s Claw” allows the reader to follow the investigation of the murder of a computer tech shop owner through the eyes of Police Chief Sheila Dawson as well as to see what China is able to contribute to the investigation.  It enables the delightful women of the Texas Stars, a quilting group and the Pecan Ave. self-proclaimed neighborhood watch group, to tell what they saw the night of the murder in their own words rather than filtered through China. Then in the chapters where China is relating her part, the text is in first person again.

I liked especially getting to know Sheila Dawson better by watching how she stands back and lets a junior detective take the lead during a period when her lead detective has “gone fishing.”  At the same time Sheila is an active participant in the investigation and a good source of experience for the  younger officer.

Having Sheila’s spouse, Blackie, working with China’s spouse, McQuaid, at a private investigation agency should also offer a lot more stories for this series.

The murderer in this book suffers a rather unique way to go.  It’s real Texas-style poetic justice.

Another good chapter in the China Bayles series.

Liz Nichols


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