Cat's Claw

June 12, 2013 - Cat's Claw (Susan Wittig Albert). The police chief of Pecan Springs, Texas shares the spotlight with herb shop owner China Bayles as they join forces to solve the murder of the town's resident computer geek.

The author tells the story through alternating points of view: Some chapters are told in China's first person voice; the others, featuring Chief Sheila Dawson, are told in the third person. Combined, they give the reader a sort of 360-degree view of the investigation.

As the story opens, Larry Kirk, who runs a computer repair shop is found dead from a gunshot wound in his home. It looks like a possible suicide but turns out to be murder. So, who killed him and why? Kirk had recently emailed China about a stalker. Also, his shop had recently been broken into by a prominent businessman. That businessman, George Timms, was supposed to surrender to police, but when he fails to show, Sheila and China wonder if Timms might be involved with Kirk's death.

Sheila and China approach the case from different angles. Sheila works the Kirk murder as an investigator, gathering evidence and questioning potential witnesses and suspects. China uses her ties to the community to find key information that might otherwise fall through the cracks. Together, they piece together a puzzle that turns out to be more complex than it initially appeared.

I think the author's two-pronged approach worked well. Specifically, it allowed the reader to get to know Sheila Dawson a little better. On the other hand, with China and Sheila splitting the chapters, there's very little room for some of the other Pecan Springs regulars we've come to know, especially the colorful Ruby. Still, 19 books in, Albert has managed to keep the series fresh and interesting, and I look forward to number 20.