Award-winning mystery author Eileen Watkins writes the Cat Groomer Mysteries. Today she joins us to discuss the inspiration behind for the third book in the series, Feral Attraction. Learn more about Eileen and her books at her website.
I write the Cat Groomer Mystery series, so I’m always alert for unusual situations involving felines. My idea for the third book, Feral Attraction, grew out of a friend’s experience. She lives in a modest condo development that backs onto woods, and a few feral cats stroll among the homes. She began feeding a particularly sad-looking gray one that at first was too wild to approach her, but eventually got brave enough to come up onto her small porch and then into her garage. Even if the cat had been willing to come into my friend’s house, she already had two living indoors and didn’t want to stress them out or possibly expose them to disease, so she just fed the feral when it visited.
One of her neighbors started haranguing her about this, claiming it was against the community rules. (Technically, it wasn’t.) My friend eventually found out that a group of nearby residents were feeding other ferals and had even tried a trap-neuter-return program to control the colony. But there remained several people who loudly insisted the cats were “wildlife” and should be removed by animal control.
Murder mysteries grow out of nasty conflicts, and I saw a perfect opportunity here. For my purposes, I made the condo community newer and more upscale, and the residents more affluent and fastidious, to raise the stakes. I also introduced an elderly activist—based on someone else I knew—who lived there and championed the cats’ cause. Because she stands out as an eccentric, and has been a gadfly all her life, she draws even more scorn from some of her neighbors.
I needed to involve my 27-year-old heroine Cassie in this battle, so I had her best friend Dawn beg her to attend a condo board meeting and speak up for the cats. This storyline takes Cassie out of her usual comfort zone—her grooming and boarding shop—and gets her working with a local animal shelter to try to manage the colony and calm down the residents. Meanwhile, the elderly activist is found dead in the woods, and soon afterward another resident also dies under suspicious circumstances. Both deaths that appear accidental, but Cassie and Dawn suspect otherwise. Because they can’t quite convince the police, they risk their necks to do their own investigating.
The real-life situation at my friend’s community ended more peacefully, thank goodness. Because the residents feeding the wild cats were found to be complying with the rules, their critics vented a little more steam but finally settled down. The angriest one actually moved away, but that only helped to restore my friend’s peace of mind.
Professional cat groomer Cassie McGlone agrees to help her friend Dawn protect a colony of feral cats on the property of an upscale condo community. Though many residents have their backs up over the situation, elderly eccentric Sabrina Ward has created a feeding station and even makeshift shelters for the ferals in the nearby woods. After a heated community meeting on the subject, at which Cassie proposes a humane solution, Sabrina is found dead in the woods of an apparent heart attack. The police call her death natural, but Dawn and Cassie suspect murder. Sabrina championed many underdog causes in her life, though; narrowing down suspects who might have wanted to kill her could prove even tougher than herding cats!