This week we look at a cozy mystery with cats and we find out about a job that is new to me, the mobile cat groomer. Oh, the scratches that await us in Brushed Up on Murder by Ruth J. Harman.
About the Book
The life of a cat groomer isn’t just pampering purring felines, it’s murder. Mobile Cat Groomer Molly Stewart loves her job. Until she finds the dead body of one of her pet parents stabbed with a garden implement in his back yard. When Molly’s uncle Russ becomes the prime suspect in the murder and the sheriff won’t consider anyone else, Molly claws through obstacles as she prowls for clues. With help from handsome veterinarian Hank Chenowith and Molly’s two cats, Percival and Jasper, will Molly succeed in proving her uncle’s innocence before the real murderer pounces on her?
When I’d first started the weekly grooming for their cats, the ladies tried to get me to join them in drinks. I finally convinced them they and their cats might not like the outcome if I was using grooming tools while under the influence. Once the humans were ready, I reached for Helga. With the cats, I also had to change every week who got groomed first. Believe me, the ladies paid attention to what I did. I’m not sure the cats cared, because as soon as I’d set them in the van, they curled up together for a nap as if that had been their plan all along. Helga grumbled and huffed when I picked her up, having settled into a comfortable position on a soft blanket. Eleanor closed her eyes and went to sleep. She’d have her chance to be groomed soon enough. While in the past, I’d always ask the ladies about anything newsworthy they’d heard to keep them occupied as I worked, this time I was hoping for useful bits which could aid in my search for the killer. I placed Helga on my table and removed her pink sweater. Sphynx cats didn’t like this part as they were always cold, but the nice warm bath I had prepared made up for it. They didn’t fight me or try to get out but seemed to enjoy the warmth soaking into their sparse fur. Helga sighed as I placed her in the sink and poured water in small increments over her back and shoulders. I kept working and didn’t bother looking down at the ladies before I spoke because they were always watching my every move. “So, anything exciting happen you two have heard about?” A thunk of glass on concrete sounded as one of them set her glass down on the driveway. “Well,” said Lottie, “you ‘ll never guess what we heard today.” “Oh, what’s that?” I lathered some special sensitive skin cat shampoo on Helga’s skin, working it down her back, around her tummy and down her legs. “Why don’t you let me tell it?” Florence’s voice was petulant. “Because I started telling it. You had your chance.” “Not really. You bulldogged your way in there.” I glanced over to see Lottie raising her hand in a surrender gesture. “Now, now. Let’s not argue. We can both tell it.” “You’re right. We both can.” Silence. I watched them and waited. When nothing more happened, I smiled. “Is someone going to tell me?” They eyed each other, gave their silent signals and Lottie nodded. “I’ll start. When we were at the Paula’s Pastries this morning, we overheard something interesting.” I took my time as I poured a pitcher of fresh clean water over Helga’s back. The water drained slowly from the tub, but I kept rinsing her until the sink was empty of soap. After the warmth of her bath, I worked fast to get her to a thick warm towel so she wouldn’t get a chill. “Really?” “Yes, Ken Evers was talking to Frank Veerk about something which seemed to upset him.” Oh wow, this could be good. “Could you hear what they were saying?” “Oh, my goodness yes. Ken was talking loud, wasn’t he, Lottie?” “Yes, indeed he was.” Florence took a swig of her drink, which the ladies always assured me were for medicinal purposes, though I had serious doubts their doctor knew anything about their medicine. “He said Frank would get what he deserved.” My hand stopped mid-motion of drying off Helga, earning me a glare from the cat. “He said that?” “Indeed, he did,” said Lottie. I dabbed gently with the towel around the cat’s face, especially her eyes and ears. “Was there anything else?” “Oh, my yes,” said Florence. I kept working but waited for more. When nothing came, I watched the ladies. They were once again signaling each other, this time with more exaggerated winks and hand circles. The medicinal alcohol must have kicked in. Unable to stand the suspense, I cleared my throat. “Did they say any more?” Florence nodded and drained her glass— good grief she was fast —and eyed Lottie, who jumped up and retrieved a pitcher from a table right inside her garage. Florence held out her glass for a refill. “Why didn’t you bring the pitcher with you to start with?” “Well, I had two glasses to carry, didn’t I? Was I supposed to place the pitcher on my head and glide straight and slow like our school deportment lessons so I wouldn’t spill it?” Finally settled, each with a refilled glass, Florence looked up at me. “While we were there, we got an exciting show, didn’t we Lottie?” “Indeed, we did.” She took a giant slurp from her fancy straw, burped, excused herself and took another drink. Florence leaned forward in her chair. “There was shoving and growling.” “Oh, it was exciting.” Her friend nodded her head vigorously. “When Ken balled up his hand, I thought sure they’re resort to fisticuffs.” Lottie fanned herself with the hand not holding her drink. “Oh, me too. It would have been so exciting.” She turned to Florence. “Can you imagine if the two men were having their quarrel over a woman?” She sighed. “It would be exactly like the book.” Eyeing me, she said, “Have you read the book yet?” I rubbed some lotion on Helga’s skin. “Uh, no, haven’t had the chance.” “Well, you simply must read it. I think it would give you valuable information on your quest.” “Quest?” “You know. For a man.” “Not any man,” added Lottie. “The cute animal doctor. The book would give you tips on the birds and the bees.” Florence waggled her eyebrows. “Oh boy, would it.” The ladies fell into a fit of giggles, Lottie splashing part of her pink drink onto her lap, but she didn’t appear to notice. I rolled my eyes. Here we go. “I’m not after Hank Chenowith.” Lottie lowered her eyebrows. “Of course, you are, dear. Everyone knows it.” “What do you mean, everyone? Not that it’s true, but even if it was, how would they know?” Florence giggled. “Well, we’ve told them, of course.”
Ruth J. Hartman spends her days herding cats and her nights spinning mysterious tales. She, her husband, and their cats love to spend time curled up in their recliners watching old Cary Grant movies. Well, the cats sit in the people’s recliners. Not that the cats couldn’t get their own furniture. They just choose to shed on someone else’s.
Ruth, a left-handed, cat-herding, farmhouse-dwelling writer uses her sense of humor as she writes tales of lovable, klutzy women who seem to find trouble without even trying.
Ruth’s husband and best friend, Garry, reads her manuscripts, rolls his eyes at her weird story ideas, and loves her despite her insistence all of her books have at least one cat in them. See updates about her cozy mysteries at Ruthjhartman.com.