Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cat's Claw: A Pecan Springs Mystery by Susan Wittig Albert

Cat's Claw: A Pecan Springs Mystery by Susan Wittig Albert, Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Group, $25.95 list price, hardcover.

From the publisher:
Police Chief Sheila Dawson believes the death of Pecan Spring's computer guru, Larry Kirk, to be a suicide, perhaps triggered by his painful divorce. Further investigation reveals that Kirk's death wasn't self-inflicted. And the truth is reinforced by her friend China Bayles' news-Larry recently asked her for legal advice in regards to a stalker.

As a police chief in a male-dominated force, Sheila meets many challenges, especially when her theories rock the boat in high profile cases like that of George Timms. He was caught breaking into Larry's computer shop to steal his own computer back because of dangerous personal information it contained. Now that Larry is dead, she's sure it's connected to the burglary. And she's also sure she'll get plenty of resistance on her assessment...

Timms's time to turn himself in to the police comes and goes, and he's nowhere to be found. In her investigation, Sheila uncovers secrets, terrible secrets that would drive anyone to kill. So who then? It's up to Sheila to prove she's got what it takes to hunt down the predator that's loose on the streets of Pecan Springs.

I'm a long-time fan of the China Bayles series by Albert and while she is still featured in this new series, the focus is on Sheila Dawson as she navigates her role as the new police chief amidst a murder investigation.  She is a strong character, so it works to have the series shift to her while maintaining China's presence. 

Even though I guessed who the killer was before it was revealed, the story kept me interested as the details of motive and possible accomplices were worked out in the end.  It was easy to read in a weekend while still having the kind of substantial storyline I've come to expect from the author.  As always, the herbal facts sprinkled into the storyline were interesting.

I think a spin-off series highlighting other characters from the China Bayles mysteries will work and I look forward to reading the next one.