REVIEW OF ALEX MATTHEWS'
By Kimberly Brown
Cassidy McCabe is a 30-something psychotherapist who, along with her investigative reporter husband Zach Moran, Cassidy's 80-year-old grandmother, and a calico cat named Starshine, gets into and out of trouble in the town of Oak Park, Illinois.
In this installment of the Cassidy McCabe series, a dark secret from Cassidy's past catches up with her--a dark secret that threatens Zach and all that Cassidy loves. For years, Cassidy has blamed herself for the death of a friend, and now she discovers that someone else blames her as well. What begins as a wicked prank with an obituary escalates to email threats, then real attempts on Zach's life. In true cozy-mystery style, Cassidy and Zach refuse to let the police take the lead in solving the crime--instead they use Cassidy's talent at psychotherapy and Zach's reporting skills to track down the "E-Stalker" themselves. As might be expected, this annoys the police and Cassidy and Zach quickly find themselves on the suspect list.
Alex Matthews won the 1999 Readers Choice Award for Best Series Character, and I can understand why. Matthews' characters seem genuine, original, and far from perfect. In short, they're very human. Cassidy, who is not a beauty, but is described by herself and others as "plain", tends to psychoanalyze everyone she comes across, a habit that frequently irritates those around her (including, occasionally, the reader); Zach, a former womanizer and druggie, still drinks too much and isn't apologetic about it at all; Starshine, unlike some other mystery fiction cats, doesn't point out clues to Cassidy or help solve the crime. Instead, she's demanding, independent, and cuddly only when she's in the mood. But she provides a warm, furry body to listen to Cassidy's problems and facilitate a little self-therapy. All in all, they make an engaging group. By the end of the book, the reader cares about them, wants to know more about them. As Cassidy and Zach hurl headlong to the conclusion of the mystery, dodging threats and stumbling upon bodies as they go, we explore their loving but sometimes tumultuous relationship.
Only the ending of the book seems slightly contrived and the required confrontation scene seems forced and unlikely. In James Bond-ish style, the villain goes to great lengths, when a simple bullet would have done fine. This is all right, even good, if there's a reasonable explanation for it, but I didn't see that here. I won't say any more about the ending, lest I give it away, but I will say that while the clues are fairly well planted, I did figure out "whodunit", though not all the whys and wherefores. However, I don't have any objection to a mystery I can figure out! This one was an enjoyable, light (but not too fluffy) read.
Death's Domain is the sixth mystery in the Cassidy McCabe series. I haven't read the first five Cassidy McCabe mysteries, but this one was good enough to make me go searching for another. Cassidy and Zach's relationship is interesting and satisfying, and I'd love to read about how they met.