Cat Sitter on a Hot Tin Roof, By Blaize Clement
The fourth book in the Dixie Hemingway mysteries opens much the same way they all do - quietly and invitingly. We are re-introduced to Siesta Key (a very attractive place to live) and her old friends - human and animal - and introduced to some new ones. One of her new pets is a seizure-assistance dog for a three-year old boy who is about to have brain surgery. Not only is this a nice segue into how Dixie came to be where she is, but it offers enough tension to to keep the reader interested in the well-being of the dog and everyone the dog interacts with.
The other new friends are a jogger and her cat (a breed I’d never heard of: Havana Brown) whom Dixie almost runs into one morning on her pre-dawn rounds. There’s enough foreshadowing, and since it’s a murder mystery, I don’t feel like it’s spoiling the plot to say that this new friend is the one who is killed. As with all of the good ones, and Clement is one of the good ones, you don’t know who did it until she wants you to know.
Getting from the budding friendship to the big reveal is a nice a journey. The food Dixie’s brother Michael serves up is described in terms that kept me perpetually hungry (a good thing), and the recurring sub-plots were a nice distraction from the grisly and suspenseful murder plot. Even Clement’s obvious comic-relief characters serve a purpose and are well-rounded enough that if you met them on the street you’d be able to sit down for coffee without all that messy getting-to-know-you business. In fact, Dixie’s world is so believable, that it’s not hard to imagine taking Billy Elliot for a run while Tom does your taxes because surely somewhere there is a caregiver running a retired greyhound while his owner takes care of financials for clients.
Even the animals have enough character development that you feel as though they have real-life dopplegangers out in the world somewhere, and Dixie’s subtle insertion of pet-facts puts the book enough on the side of edutainment that you feel like you’ve learned a few things when you walk away.
But the real gem here is the suspense. Yes, it is a murder mystery. Yes, Dixie is a former deputy, yes there are often multiple suspects, constant encounters with the active deputies and investigators, and, given the genre: almost always a shoot out, or at least explosions. It’s why we read them. Clement likes her red herrings, and she delivers them in such a way that even those of us who are seasoned mystery readers don’t see that them for what they are until the scene has wrapped...and the fakes are sprinkled in with the truly threatening scenes to keep the reader on her toes.
Dixie has even, by book four, come out of her grief enough to recognize that she’s allowed to have womanly urges and not supress them...she is, as they say, coming alive again. Of course the regularly background characters cheer her on, as does the reader. This new development, which was planted in the third book, weaves in just enough romance for those who like it served up with their adrenaline.