BOOKMONGER: Composite author pens a fun, spunky mystery series

“Bye, Bye Love”

K.J. Larsen

This is how K.J. Larsen writes a mystery: in the morning she gets up, she gets up, and she gets up, pours herself three fresh cups of coffee, and then goes onto Skype to figure out the next plot twist in her Cat DeLuca series. You see, K.J. is actually the nom de plume assumed by three sisters (Kari, Julianne, and Kristen Larsen) who don’t let geographical distance (one lives in Chicago, two live here in Washington State) get in the way of their literary career.

Their heroine, Cat, runs the Pants on Fire Detective Agency in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeport. The agency specializes in outing philandering spouses, but somehow Cat always bumps into a murder case that she has to solve as well.

In this fourth installment, “Bye, Bye Love,” Cat goes out on a run through the local park one day, when she literally stumbles over a faceless corpse. She checks the dead guy’s pockets - according to the information in his wallet, he is Bernie Love, accountant for the notorious Provenza family. But just as she’s about to call the cops, she is knocked out cold by someone wielding a taser. By the time she comes to, the body is gone.

Cat comes from a family of macho Chicago cops – many of whom work in the Ninth Precinct. But even the DeLuca family name is not enough to shield Cat from the scorn heaped upon her by the precinct captain, a non-relative who has been at cross purposes with her in previous installments of this mystery series. She insists that there was a murder in Bridgeport, but Captain Bob is disinclined to believe her without a corpse to show for it.

Stung by his attitude, Cat decides to solve this case herself. She also has a personal stake in the matter – another item she found in the victim’s pockets but neglected to mention to Captain Bob was an envelope stuffed with a large amount of cash and addressed to her beloved Uncle Joey, another cop in the Ninth.

But her investigation is complicated by the sinister Provenza family connection, and the fact that the murderer would like to erase the sole witness – her.

Nonetheless, Cat breezes through this story with the help of her trusty beagle partner, Inga, and her somewhat less trustworthy human assistant, Cleo. Cat’s hunky FBI boyfriend, Chance Savino, is mostly off on assignment in this book. But her extended family members (parents, siblings, uncles) intervene – and interfere – throughout.

This series is spunky and fun. The murders are lite – Cat is this generation’s younger, sexier version of Jessica Fletcher. (Remember the TV series “Murder, She Wrote”?)

With the exception of a frenetic 1980s-style wedding scene – replete with powder-blue tuxes and ruffly shirts for the guys, a seven-tier Italian wedding cake, and ninja warrior flower children – that felt like it was put together by a committee, the rest of the story holds together well, considering that it was written by a veritable sorority.

The Bookmonger is Barbara Lloyd McMichael, who writes this weekly column focusing on the books, authors and publishers of the Pacific Northwest. Contact her at bkmonger@nwlink.com