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Dial M for Meow (Bookshop Kitties Mysteries, #1) by Ruth J. Hartman 

Get ready for a new cozy mystery series that’s quirky and full of feline fun! 

After the devastating breakup and realizing that her boyfriend had emptied her bank accounts and stolen her credit cards, children’s author and cat-mom Christy Bailey struggles to pay her bills and keep her head above water. She was relieved and delighted when her Aunt Betty suddenly called her to ask her to come live with her and help run her bookstore in the little Indiana town of Green Meadows. Christy immediately packs her possessions and her beloved cats, Pearl and Milton, and heads to Indiana and a fresh start. 

But after the 9-hour drive, she arrives at the bookstore to find the store closed and her aunt not answering her phone. While considering her next move, Christy is surprised by her childhood friend, Janie, who also recently returned to town. Together the two women enter the bookstore and head upstairs to Aunt Betty’s apartment, where they discover the body of a local woman in the living room. Betty is quickly located, unconscious on the floor and with the dead woman’s blood on her hands. Summoning the police, the woman is identified as a local newspaper reporter, Nan Bittle, and after the crime scene is processed, her body is removed. Aunt Betty, of course, became suspect number one. 

With the police steadily building their case against her aunt, Christy and Janie, with the assistance of the two curious cats, Pearl and Milton, started looking for the real killer. 

Dial M for Meow is the debut novel in Ruth J. Hartman’s new cozy mystery series, the Bookshop Kitties Mysteries. With a loving cat-mom main character, a caring but needy sidekick-friend, two suspiciously smart felines, a puzzling homicide, and a more-than-the-usual drama-filled small town, get ready for a cozy mystery that’s fun and unique. 

Christy Bailey, children’s author and devoted cat mom to the inspirations for the feline sleuths in her books, Pearl and Milton, seems like such a genuine young woman. She was completely taken in by her ex-boyfriend, and I felt so bad for her. I truly wanted her to succeed and save the day for her aunt from the very start. I felt like I was still getting to know Aunt Betty in this book, but so far, she’s a strong and caring woman who loves her niece. Janie Lambert has apparently had a rough past, and I feel there is much more to learn about her in the future. She constantly clings to Christy, and there’s got to be more to this behavior than we know. 

The murder victim proves to have a number of individuals with a grudge against her, providing fodder for Christy’s snooping. A couple of warnings from the killer only urge her on with her questions, especially when reporting them to the local police only seems to draw increased scrutiny of Aunt Betty. I wondered how the police could possibly believe Aunt Betty might have knocked herself unconscious after committing the murder. 

The story is well done, and the action certainly held my attention but one difference that made this cozy debut stand out from others was that the quaint little town of Green Meadows is populated by the nastiest bunch of people ever! The town sounds lovely with its collection of fun, cleverly-named shops, but each one seems to be owned, operated, or managed by a weirdo or an ill-tempered jerk who certainly doesn’t want any business. After Christy’s first experience at Petals and Stems, I couldn’t believe she even bought something there. The murder victim’s visitation or “calling,” though universally disliked, drew quite the crowd, but even her closest relatives couldn’t be bothered to receive visitors on her behalf. The attendees were most definitely there for the spectacle. Thankfully, some bright sparks, such as Dr. Yummy, provide a vestige of normality and, in his case, a possible love interest later down the line. I will definitely be waiting anxiously for the next book in this series, if not for the mystery or the hint of romance, for more of this collection of awful townspeople. 

I highly recommend DIAL M FOR MEOW to cozy mystery readers who enjoy bright, young female sleuths, cats who act like cats, and incredibly quirky small towns. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author through Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours.

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