Title: Nine Lives by Wendy Corsi Staub
A Lily Dale Mystery
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Supernatural Elements
Length: 288 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publicist
In this warm and witty series debut from New York Times bestseller Wendy Corsi Staub, a widowed young mom plans a fresh start in Chicago–but instead finds her way to a quirky lakeside village that just happens to be populated by mediums.
When reluctant road trippers Bella Jordan and her son Max detour to Lily Dale, New York, they’re planning to deliver a lost cat to its home and then move on, searching for one of their own. But the footloose feline’s owner Leona Gatto has unexpectedly passed away, leaving behind a pregnant pet without a mistress, a busy inn without a keeper–and a lovable circle of neighbors who chat with dead people.
After agreeing to help out temporarily, sensible Bella doesn’t need psychic gifts to figure out that a houseful of tourists and a litter of kittens lie in her immediate future–or that Leona was murdered. It’s up to her to solve the case so that she and Max can leave town, but their new home–like Leona’s killer–might just lurk where she least expects it.
Nine Lives by Wendy Corsi Staub is an intriguing cozy mystery with slight supernatural elements. Set in the small town of Lily Dale, Bella Jordan becomes a reluctant innkeeper while waiting on car repairs. Surrounded by physics and mediums, Bella becomes embroiled in the mystery surrounding Leona Gatto’s recent death. Was the guesthouse owner’s death an unfortunate accident? Or was it something far more sinister?
Still grieving her beloved husband’s loss, Bella and her five old son Max are in the midst of moving halfway across the country when she takes a unexpected detour to Lily Dale to return Chance the cat to her rightful owner. Dismayed to learn of Leona’s death from her neighbor and good friend, Odelia Lauder, Bella accepts Odelia’s offer to stay at the guesthouse until her car repairs are completed. Despite entreaties from the other residents, she is planning to leave as soon as possible, but she is troubled an ominous dream about Leona. With a little help from Odelia and ex-cop turned private investigator, Luther Ragland, Bella decides it would not hurt for her do a little unobtrusive sleuthing but will she uncover the truth before it is too late?
Bella is a likable and sympathetic protagonist. Her husband’s death turned her life upside down and the loss of her job means she and Max must leave behind the only home they have ever known to move in with her less than welcoming mother-in-law. Although somewhat charmed by Lily Dale, Bella is hesitant to remain in town and she is very wary (and slightly skeptical) of its residents’ psychic abilities. Her inability to commit to staying in town beyond a few days becomes a bit tiresome as the book moves forward, but given the upheaval in her life, her doubts are understandable. While not a typical amateur detective, her natural curiosity leads her to look around the guest house for clues into Leona’s death. Reluctant to share what she discovers because of her fear of becoming a suspect, Bella zeroes in a couple of possible suspects and inadvertently puts herself in harm’s way when she rushes headlong into a dangerous situation.
Lily Dale is a wonderful setting and the townspeople are quirky yet interesting. The supernatural element is unobtrusive yet intriguing but it is left up to the reader to decide whether or not some of the things that occur are just coincidence or the result of otherworldly intervention. It is worth mentioning that Bella solves the mystery surrounding Leona’s death through good old fashioned detective work and some pretty accurate speculation, not psychic or ghostly involvement.
Nine Lives by Wendy Corsi Staub is a fantastic beginning to this new series set the charming town of Lily Dale. The characters are a bit eclectic but this adds to their overall appeal. The storyline is well-developed and several red herrings and clever misdirects make it impossible to guess the perpetrator’s identity or motive for the murder for much of the story. The novel’s conclusion is exciting with Bella managing to keep her wits about her despite the danger she is facing. Fans of cozy mysteries are sure to love this perplexing first installment in the Lily Dale series.