A Cat in the Manger (Lydia Adamson)

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A New York City avant-garde actor and occasional cat-sitter turns amateur sleuth in this flimsy tale, the first in a series by the pseudonymous Adamson. Alice Nestleton usually watches Harry and Jo Starobin's Himalayans at their farm for three days each Christmas. This year the plans are changed, however, when Jo arrives to find Harry murdered. Nothing of value is missing--only a few barn cats--so there seems to be no motive for the crime until Jo discovers $381,000 in cash stashed in a safe deposit box. Convinced that her husband's death is connected to this money, Jo hires Alice the cat-sitter to help sort Harry's papers and solve the puzzle. But when a neighbor who tends broken-down racehorses is murdered and Jo's former stable hand vanishes, Alice takes a closer look at thoroughbred racing. What she learns is that Harry's specially bred barn cats were, inexplicably, capable of altering a horse's career more effectively than any trainer. Mystery pk fans will have no problem fingering the mastermind of this cat caper; he's so obvious he might as well wear a beanie labeled "villain."