Curiosity Killed the Cat Sitter is the first entry in the Dixie Hemingway mystery series by Blaize Clement.
Dixie Hemingway's life in the Sarasota, Florida's sheriff department ended on the day her husband and daughter were killed in a tragic accident. Dixie returns to her nearby childhood home of Siesta Key to find some peace and to try to reengage in life. Three years later, she is feeling strong and happy in her new career as professional pet sitter. Her apartment is on property that was once owned by her grandparents, and her brother and his partner live across the drive in the big house.
Dixie's peaceful life is interrupted the morning she enters Marilee Doerring's house to feed her cat, Ghost. Instead of being greeted by a hungry kitty, Dixie finds a dead man in the kitchen and the rest of the house ransacked. After making a quick check around the house, she grabs the cat and runs outside to call 911. Thus the former deputy is brought back into the world of crime.
There is much to like about this series debut and Dixie Hemingway. Although Dixie has experienced unimaginable personal loss, she is not someone to pity. She has found a way of life that suits her, she is close to her brother and his partner, she is connected to her community, and she loves pets and her job. Clement has done a great job of balancing Dixie's sadness with her strength so we can empathize without feeling sorry for her.
It is easy to picture the people Dixie runs into in Siesta Key. This is a first in series, so there are lots of characters we have to meet: Dixie's family, the members of the police department, the waitress at the diner, and Dixie's longstanding clients. All are characters we look forward to seeing again. Clement also does an great job developing the individuals specifically related to the murder.
It's a given that a book about a pet sitter would feature dogs and cats. The good news is that Clement manages to use the animals as a foil to the darker aspects of the novel without getting cutesy. I'm sure the book would be considered a cozy mystery, but don't expect to find a budding romance or fun family life in the background. Dixie uses adult language, and we see the grittier parts of the murder scene. Underlying issues that may or may not be related to the mystery include sex, adultery, blackmail, a gay lifestyle, medical malpractice, and the nasty side of evangelical Christianity.
My principal criticism is that I figured out several pieces of the plot fairly easily, which I often find annoying in a mystery. However, I did not work out all the details, and there were still surprises at the end. The series has potential, and I'm planning on reading more about Dixie Hemingway's adventures in pet sitting.
I listened to this book on audio read by Julia Gibson, who did a fine job with pacing and distinguishing characters.
Print published by St. Martin's Press, 2007
Audio published by Recorded Books
Challenges: New Author, Support Your Library, Themed Reading, 999, Audiobooks, Spring Reading, 100+, Cozy Mystery