Murder of a Cranky Catnapper
Denise Swanson     

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Scrumble River
Book: 19


In the latest from the New York Times bestselling author of Murder of an Open Book, a school psychologist has her hands full after a school board sourpuss meets a bitter end...
With her morning sickness finally abated, Skye Denison-Boyd is ready to pounce on the pertinent problems she faces as Scumble River Elementary School’s psychologist. After trying almost every trick in the book to aid a handful of socially awkward fourth grade boys, Skye opts for the innovative approach of pet therapy with the assistance of the local vet, a Siberian husky, and a Maine coon cat.
Unfortunately, the first session only breeds disaster and draws the ire of cantankerous school board member Palmer Lynch. But Skye’s worry over the episode changes to dread after Lynch is found dead in his home with the therapy cat hidden in his garage. With a clowder of questions unleashed, Skye finds herself dealing with a killer who isn’t pussyfooting around…

Scumble River school psychologist Skye-Dennison Boyd is happily married to long-time love Sheriff Wally Boyd, and they are expecting their first child. Skye is eager to try a new approach to help a group of fourth graders who find it hard to make friends. She works with a local vet to introduce pet therapy as a way to get the boys to come out of their shells. The program gets off to a rough start, and of course difficult school board member Palmer Lynch is right there to witness the disaster. Lynch has a knack at making enemies and there is no shortage of suspects when the overbearing man is found murdered in his own home, with one of the therapy animals somehow appearing in his garage. Skye has her hands full helping Wally investigate the case, while keeping out of the targets of a killer.

I used to follow this series closely and absolutely loved it when it first began. Then it started to get silly with too much interference from Skye's nosy mother May and ridiculous antics from the ghost of the former owner of Skye's cottage, and this is not a paranormal series. I took a break from the series for a couple of books, but out of affection for the series was eager to read the newest installment.

I am happy to say there is no slapstick this time and May is on her best behavior when she does make an appearance in this book.  I am also pleased to see Skye seems to have matured and is learning to better deal with her mother. It's great to see a character develop throughout a long-running series, and I think it's a good sign for future books.

I find this series it at is best when it balances the investigation with getting to see Skye at work as a school counselor. The pet therapy scenes are very interesting, and I wish there would have been more of them. However, Skye, in her role as consultant to the police department, does work well with Wally and they make a great team in their personal and professional lives. I wasn't offended, but the love scenes as well as one of the possible motives for the crimes that Skye discovers are pretty steamy for a typical cozy mystery.

The book is moderately-paced and the investigation comes to a satisfying resolution when seemingly unrelated cases come together at the end. Although I would have liked more scenes with Skye and her students, I enjoyed this book a lot and think fans of the series will be pleased.

~ Christine