Sunday, November 18, 2018

FOOL'S MOON, a Tarot Cats Mystery, New from Diane A.S. Stuckart

Give an award-winning author a challenge, and she'll rise to the occasion -- as Diane A.S. Stuckart, aka Ali Brandon, proves in her newest series, the Tarot Cat Mysteries. Launched this month from Midnight Ink with FOOL'S MOON, the books invite a generous willingness to buy into the minds of black cats Ophelia and Brandon; their new housemate Zuki, a smart, strong, and steady-minded pit bull; and a mysterious koi in the courtyard pond, able to tell fortunes in rhyme and with extreme discretion.

This quirky group makes up the household of just-beginning South Florida "botanica" owner -- substituting for her more experienced half sister -- Ruby Sparks, whose readings of the Tarot cards are still pretty basic. Nor does Ruby know when to seek extra information from the cards. Fortunately, Ophelia turns out to be very talented at this, even without cards under her paws. And when the question that a customer has is about murder, Ophelia won't let Ruby struggle alone:
Ruby could understand how [this client, Luciana] would worry about accusing her man -- fiancé, boyfriend? -- of such betrayal, only to learn she'd been wrong.

"Well, let me keep shuffling. And if you don't want to say it out loud, you can just think it, and we'll see how that goes."

And that was when Ruby heard a soft meow behind her. Before she could say anything, a sleek black feline landed with a soft thud in the middle of the reading table.

Luciana gave a surprised little cry, and then laughed. "Un gato negro -- a black cat," she exclaimed as Ophelia sat and stared at her. "Does the kitty tell fortunes, too?"

"She likes to think she does. Bad girl," Ruby scolded.
Still, if it weren't for Ophelia's deft turning of an extra two cards, there'd be much less insight into the dangerous situation that Luciana's in, at the house where Ophelia used to live.

I wasn't sure I could buy into the premises here, but Ophelia and her four-legged friends turned out to be both enchanting and persistent, and by the end of the book, I'd followed clues, enjoyed twists and red herrings, and half believed in this little cat's abilities. It helps that Stuckart does a terrific job of describing the Tarot cards and the mind-wrestling that they can inspire for a good "reading." Quick action and plenty of pet-to-pet loyalty and affection also turn this mystery into an enjoyable (and gore-free) romp.

With more to follow in the series, I'm ready to find out what else is in the cards!

PS:  Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.

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