Like Stephanie Plum on steroids. Catarina “Cat” DeLuca is on a wild and funny ride from the opening sentence. After a short lived marriage to a serial cheater Cat establishes Pants On Fire Detective Agency where she specializes in getting the goods on wayward spouses. Or, as her momma puts it, she’s a “hoochie stalker”. And she is good at it. She scales balconies, and teeters out side hotel windows to capture the Kodak Moment.
In Sticks and Stones, the follow up to Liar, Liar: A Cat DeLuca Mystery, Cat has just solved the case of the cheating husband of Cleo Jones who has become a de facto partner. Losing Walter was no loss, and Cleo had the satisfaction of filling his butt full of buck shot when they parted. But Cleo has her eyes on more than divorce court when it comes to Walter who has skipped out with Cleo’s treasured dog, her money , her clothes and worst of all Cleo’s sister, “the Ho”.
When Cleo shows up at the office driving Walter’s Corvette, Cat reluctantly agrees to help Cleo pack up some of her furniture and belongings while Walter and The Ho sister are out. Once they arrive at Walters hide out apartment, Cleo grabs her dog, her clothes, a prized Tiffany Lamp, and a designer bag full of money. Switching back to Cleo’s Camry, because it’ll carry more swag than the Vette, Cat and Cleo discover that the dog is coated in blood. Back inside they find Walter, dead.
When Cat calls the cops, they naturally suspect Cleo, and Cleo obligingly was caught on surveillance tape detailing how she was going to murder his cheating ‘heart’. And as if to aid their case, Cleo can’t keep her mouth shut and almost gets Cat arrested along with herself. Fortunately, Cat’s family are Chicago cops going back numerous generations and Cat sets off to find the real killer. Unfortunately, Walter has screwed over everybody he has ever met, or so it seems. Among, the people he owes or has cheated or black mailed money from are loan sharks, gamblers and low life businessman.
With a cast of zany characters that are oddly believable, non stop one liners and a pace that is unrelenting, plus a plot that, convoluted as it is, is easy to believe and follow, this is a winner. K.J. Larsen (or maybe I should say K.J. Larsens as the author is three sisters, two in Seattle and one in Chicago) has avoided the sophomore jinx with this second novel in the series. She (they) have also justified any doubters when Larsen won 2010’s Best Mystery award from Library Journal.
Readers will be hard put not to recognize the similarities between Cat DeLuca and her zany family and friends and Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, but Larsen fearlessly writes so well that the reader soon forgets that and goes along for the ride of their life. The only weakness I could find was Cat, when over her head, is all to predictably rescued by her shady FBI man lover, Chance, or her equally shady muscle man , Max. But the action is great, the dialog hardboiled, quirky and funny as hell. It’s a talent, indeed that can maintain such a high degree of one liners and comebacks, such funny, yet pertinent dialog and make it seem so real and fit the characters.
If you are new to this author, then jump on the train now while there are still seats available to fall out of laughing. Cat DeLuca, Cleo jones and the crew are setup for a long, long ride in the world of great mysteries.
Copyright © 2012 Robert Carraher All Rights Reserved
Article first published as Book Review: Sticks and Stones: A Cat DeLuca Mystery by K.J. Larsen on Blogcritics.