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Fiction Cats & Dogs

Paws to Remember

by (author) Sofie Kelly

Penguin Publishing Group
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Cats & Dogs, Amateur Sleuth, Women Sleuths
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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Librarian Kathleen Paulson and her enchanted felines get involved in a cold case that is putting people in very hot water in the newest installment of this New York Times bestselling series.

When a water leak repair results in a body being found behind the walls of the store run by the artists’ co-op that Kathleen's friend, Maggie, is part of everyone is completely mystified as to whose body it is and who hid it there. But as the dust settles, her boyfriend, Detective Marcus Gordon, begins to suspect the body could belong to a young woman who disappeared more than thirty years ago.

When a friend with a connection to the young woman asks Kathleen to look into the circumstances around the disappearance, she and her cats—who have special feline talent for catching felons—find themselves digging up secrets that at least one person in Mayville Heights would much prefer stay buried.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Sofie Kelly is a New York Times bestselling author and mixed-media artist who writes the Magical Cats Mysteries and, as Sofie Ryan, writes the Second Chance Cat Mysteries.

Excerpt: Paws to Remember (by (author) Sofie Kelly)

chapter 1

It wasn't the first dead body I'd ever seen, so I didn't scream. It also helped that I had been expecting at least one-or possibly two. Owen looked up at me, an expression of self-satisfaction on his face that made him look rather smug-which I'm sure he was. He had one foot on the corpse, his way of claiming credit for the fact that it was lying there in the first place. Since the body was that of a fairly large rodent and Owen was a small cat, I had no problem with the way things had worked out.

Harry Taylor looked down at the little gray-and-white tabby. "Nice work," he said. Harry was in his late fifties, his face weathered from working outside in the sun and wind. Very little rattled him.

The cat dipped his head in gracious acknowledgment of his skills.

A couple of days of colder-than-usual weather-even for Minnesota in December-and a middle-of-the-night power failure downtown had caused a water pipe to burst in the old building where the artists' cooperative had their shop. My friend Maggie, who helped run the business, had been the one who'd gotten the call about the power failure, and she'd discovered both the broken pipe and the furry trespasser.

Maggie had called Harry, who was responsible for the maintenance on the building, and me because Maggie had a long-standing phobia of mice and other rodents. I knew it was connected to something that had happened when she was a child, but she had never shared any details and I had never pushed. I'd brought Owen because no rat, mouse, vole or mole was a match for him.

Harry glanced over at me. "Want me to take care of this?" he asked, indicating the dead animal. "Or is there someone you wanted to fling the dearly departed at?"

I'd been about to pick up Owen. I straightened and eyed Harry, my gaze narrowing in surprise. "How did you know about that incident?" I said. He had to be referring to the last time I'd been involved in disposing of a dead rodent, although I took issue with his use of the word "fling."

He laughed. "Well, you did lob a dead rat at Ruby's head," he said. "Not really the kind of thing people tend to keep to themselves."

"First of all, I didn't throw it at her head deliberately," I said. "She just sort of walked into the line of fire." I could feel my face getting red. "And second, it wasn't actually dead."

He was still laughing. "Doesn't help your case at all, Kathleen."

Harry's laughter was contagious. The incident Harry was talking about was the time the building's basement had been half-filled with water and what I thought was one very dead rodent floating near the stairs. Turned out it was only mostly dead. And as any fan of the book and the movie The Princess Bride will tell you, mostly dead is slightly alive.

I had scooped the animal out of the water with a snow shovel and then, because I hadn't thought ahead to what I was going to do next, ended up tossing it outside just as Ruby Blackthorne-one of the co-op artists-walked by. In my defense I didn't hit Ruby, who was startled but not at all angry, and the animal had scurried away the moment it landed on the pavement. Ruby had teased me about the whole thing for weeks.

"I'd be happy for you to take care of . . . this," I said in answer to Harry's original question. I bent down and scooped up Owen with one hand and raised an eyebrow at Harry as I headed for the door. "It's not like Ruby is in town."

Maggie was waiting in the entryway clutching a broom in one hand with her other arm wrapped tightly around her chest. "Is it . . . gone?" she asked. She glanced over my right shoulder and then her green eyes came back to my face.

Owen gave a loud and very definitive meow. I set him on the floor at my feet.

"Yes," I said. Maggie's shoulders immediately slumped in relief.

I gestured to the half-open door behind me. "Harry's just cleaning up."

Maggie leaned forward and smiled at Owen. "Thank you," she said. "You're my hero."

The cat smiled up at her. Owen adored Maggie.

"So now what?" she asked, looking up at me. I noticed she still had a tight grip on the broom handle.

"Harry's going to pull down the rest of the drywall on that back wall. He wants to see how much water damage there is and he wants to get things dried out before you end up with mold in there."

"There's never a good time for something like this to happen, but this close to Christmas . . ." Maggie shook her head. "I can think of three people off the top of my head who make as much of their income in December as they do during the summer tourist season."

"Is there somewhere you could set up a temporary shop until Harry gets this space usable again?" I asked.

"So far I've had no luck finding space. The Christmas Market is set up in the community center, so that's out."

Ruby was the president of the co-op, but she was in Minneapolis getting ready for an exhibit of her paintings. Since Maggie had had the job before Ruby, she'd stepped in to handle the water leak.

Maggie finally seemed to realize that she was still holding the broom. She leaned it against the wall behind the front door and folded her arm up over her head, fingers playing with her blond curls. "I'm hoping Harry can put some kind of tarp or plastic over that wall and we can reopen early next week."

I could hear Harry moving around inside the shop. He must have disposed of the "dearly departed," as he'd put it, by now. "Owen and I are going to help Harry," I said to Maggie. "Why don't you go upstairs and have a cup of tea?"

"Maybe in a minute," she said. "I'd really like to get a good look at the damage. When I saw that flash of fur earlier I didn't spend any time looking around." She gave me a sheepish smile. "I'm sorry I woke you up so early."

"Merow!" Owen said.

I smiled. "Like he said, we don't mind. And I was awake anyway. Hercules has been waking up early and seems to think if he's up he should be having breakfast."

Owen meowed loudly again. Hercules was his brother. If one of them had something, the other wanted it, the only exception being catnip chickens, which Owen loved and Hercules was bored by.

"And if Hercules is having breakfast then Owen is having breakfast. And since neither one of them has figured out how to use a can opener, that means I have to get up, too." I'd woken up at ten to six to find Hercules breathing his kitty morning breath in my face. When Maggie had called at five past I was downstairs in the kitchen wrapped around a large cup of coffee while the boys ate their breakfast.

I put my arms around her shoulders now. "And even if you had woken me up I wouldn't have minded. That's what friends are for." Owen murped his agreement. "Let's go see if Harry is ready to get started."

Harry was set to tackle the rest of the old drywall, and since I didn't have to be at work at the library for a while, I'd offered to help. My parents had an old house back in Boston and I'd removed drywall before.

Harry had taken off his jacket but he was warmly dressed underneath it in heavy brown canvas pants and a red-and-brown-plaid flannel shirt over a long-sleeved T-shirt. He handed me a mask. "You got gloves?" he asked as he pulled on his own pair.

I nodded as I pulled mine out of the back pocket of my old, paint-spattered jeans. Like Harry I was wearing a flannel shirt over a double-layer long-sleeved T-shirt. There was heat on in the building, but since the electricity had come back on only half an hour ago, it was going to take a while to get the old structure warmed up again.

Maggie stood several steps behind us with Owen next to her as though he were her bodyguard, which in his little kitty mind he probably was. Neither Owen nor Hercules was exactly what you'd call an ordinary housecat.

I adjusted the mask Harry handed me and we got to work. The old drywall was wet and crumbly in some places and broke apart in small pieces in our hands. Harry had spread a couple of large tarps on the floor so we just dropped everything we pulled loose onto the floor. He grabbed the edge of a piece of Sheetrock and braced one foot against the wall for leverage. Harry had pulled off most of the trim in the room before I'd gotten down the hill. Once Owen and I had arrived to do rodent patrol, Harry had removed the last piece because the cat had scratched very insistently at it. Harry had also sucked up the water on the floor with his big, industrial Shop-Vac. Maggie and I had moved everything upstairs into the tai chi studio. The only water damage was to some holiday decorations and several paintings that had been hanging on the wall when the pipe burst.

Harry looked over his shoulder at Owen, whose golden eyes were fixed on the wall. I didn't hear or see anything that suggested there was anything else alive back there, but if there was, it didn't stand a chance against either one of them.

"Ready?" Harry asked.

Owen bobbed his head and meowed.

Harry grinned at me. "I swear your cat knows what I'm saying."

"Of course he does," Maggie said. "Owen is very smart."

The cat looked up at her and seemed to smile.

Harry would have been shocked if he'd known everything that Owen and Hercules as well could do. I wondered what he'd say-what anyone in town would say-if they knew that Owen could become invisible at will and Hercules could walk through walls. They'd probably wonder about my mental health. I glanced at Owen, hoping he wouldn't suddenly get the idea to demonstrate his talent. He liked to do things like that.

I grabbed a section of drywall next to the piece Harry had just ripped down. It wasn't quite as saturated with water as the previous piece I'd pulled loose had been, but it was wet enough that I managed to yank down a piece only about a foot wide.

There was something in the wall cavity between the studs, something behind the thin layer of old insulation. Whatever it was, was wrapped in heavy plastic.

"Harry," I said.

He turned to look at me. "Did you find something?" he asked.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Owen move in front of Maggie. "Not what you're thinking," I said, realizing he probably thought I'd discovered another rat. "There's something wrapped up in plastic in between the studs."

"You sure it's not just insulation?"

I pulled a bit more of the Sheetrock loose so I could get a better look. "It's definitely plastic," I said.

Harry leaned in closer.

"Do you think it could be some sort of time capsule?" I asked, brushing dust from the front of my shirt.

Harry shrugged. "Last time these walls were back to the studs must be forty years ago now. I don't remember hearing about them putting anything like that in a wall, but it wouldn't have been the kind of thing I would have paid attention to back then. Might as well see what it is."

We worked together to pull the last of the drywall away from the studs and peel back the wet insulation. The wall cavity was deeper than I had thought. The plastic was thick and heavy and I could see it was wrapped around something but I couldn't tell what. The bundle was easily five feet long, wedged into the space between two wooden wall studs. Harry moved to lift the whole thing out.

He frowned. "Whatever this is, it's heavier than it looks," he said. I caught hold of the plastic about halfway down and helped Harry lower it to the floor, kicking some of the pieces of Sheetrock out of the way. I knelt down on the tarp as Owen made his way over to me. I pulled off my gloves and peeled back the first two layers of plastic, brushing a layer of dust and dirt from the outside one. Underneath the third one I could see what looked like a heavy gray wool blanket. My heart began to pound and all at once my mouth went dry. Owen meowed softly.

"I know," I said. I tried to swallow the lump at the back of my throat but I couldn't.

"What is it?" Harry asked.

"I . . . um . . . can you help me get more of this plastic undone?"

His eyes narrowed but all he said was, "Sure."

We managed to unwrap the third layer. I lifted up a corner of the blanket and let it fall again. I sat back on my heels and slowly let out a breath. Owen put a paw on my leg. Harry said an oath almost under his breath.

"What's wrong?" Maggie said. There was an edge of uncertainty to her voice.

Harry swiped a hand over the back of his neck. "I'll make the call," he said, pulling out his phone as he moved several steps away.

"Kathleen, what's wrong?" Maggie asked again.

I got to my feet. My stomach was doing somersaults. I turned to face her.

She looked past me at the . . . bundle on the floor. "Is that asbestos or something dangerous?"

I shook my head. "No. It's a body."

Editorial Reviews

"The sequel to Whiskers and Lies combines a cold case, magical cats, and a librarian in a charming mystery about family. It’s a winner for series fans." - Library Journal
“What more could you want? A good mystery, a cat, and a dog.” – Kings River Life

“This fast-paced mystery is very well plotted and executed, with plot twists that kept this reader guessing throughout... I highly recommend this cozy mystery!” – Open Book Society

“In this Magical Cats Mystery, Ms. Kelly demonstrates her reputation as an extraordinary cat whisperer. Owen and Hercules provide their usual combination of fascinating action and exchanges with various characters throughout the story.” – Fresh Fiction

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