lawyer for the cat book coverReviewed by Kelly Ferjutz

My first thought was that Lawyer for the Cat was an entirely charming book, but it really isn’t only just sweet. There’s a bit of sour in there too, which pretty much makes it a sweet and sour, charming book. The author’s writing style is terrific–she draws you into the story, and holds you there, regardless of what other plans you might have had in mind for that same space of time. Forget it. The Lawyer for the Cat wins her case, hands/paws down.

There have been several really big ‘news’ stories over the years about a wealthy person leaving his/her entire fortune to the care and comfort of a beloved pet. And why not? Pets are generally much more worthy than most people. When they love, they love unconditionally, and frequently suffer from bereavement as much if not more than humans do. Beatrice was just an ordinary black cat, but she bonded with her human, Lila MacKay, so strongly that it wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that the cat’s care was the primary function of Lila’s Trust Document.

However, it was a surprise to Attorney Sally Baynard when the judge of Probate Court appointed her to be the attorney for the cat. Beatrice is the beneficiary of a multi-million dollar trust plus the plantation on Edisto Island, just outside of Charleston, that she’d shared with the previous (human) owner, Lila Mackey.

Approaching the middle of her life, Sally also must contend with her aging mother. Mom may well be in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s Disease, but does not want to be separated from her friends and her daughter by living in a home somewhere. Fortunately, Sally can afford to keep her Mom with her, in her large apartment, thanks to two very conscientious caregivers. Mom keeps talking about a long-ago flame, which tends to confuse Sally, until she discovers that very gentleman has moved into the penthouse in her apartment building. Now what?

Lila Mackey’s son is not fond of the cat, and can’t seem to understand why he isn’t the primary beneficiary, rather than the cat. Is that even legal? The Presiding Probate Judge says ‘yes it is’, and appoints Sally to be the enforcer of the trust. This means that she will decide which (if any) of the four possible suggested guardians will in fact, be selected to care for Beatrice, and live in Oak Bluff Plantation house for the balance of Beatrice’s life. The plantation encompasses 300 acres, in addition to the three million dollars.

In the meantime, Sally’s former husband, also a lawyer, is now a judge, and they can’t easily avoid seeing each other. Joe is responsible for Sally having met Tony, a local vet, in a previous case (The Lawyer for the Dog) involving the mini-Schnauzer, Sherwin, who wormed his way into becoming part of Sally’s household. It’s comforting for Sally to have Tony also available to care for Beatrice on those occasions when Sally has to leave town.

There are four possible future caretakers for Beatrice. The fore-mentioned son, who is very obvious in his dislike of the cat; Gail Sims, the groundskeeper at the plantation; Katherine Harleston, librarian at the county library; and her nephew Dr. Philip Freeman. Or, should none of these prove capable, anyone suitable as selected by the attorney.

Sally journeys to New York to visit the nephew who proves to be a charming gentleman. He refuses the offer, but mentions an old bookstore that Lila liked to visit on her trips to NY. He hints that perhaps Simon Witowski was more than ‘just a friend’. The librarian proves to be not a good candidate, mostly because of her own personal situation.

Finally, however, all the barriers are removed, and Sally is able to choose the best person to care for Beatrice. In the process, she connects once again with Tony, the vet, who has been visiting his teen-aged son in California. Now that all the cats and dogs are happily housed where appropriate, perhaps the two of them can re-establish their former friendship. We can but hope.

I loved this book, which succeeds on many levels. It’s not chick-lit by any means, as the women are all rather past the ‘chick’ stage. However, women friends are women friends, whatever their ages, and/or locations. There is an element of mystery, a fair amount of animals and a goodly bit of lawyerly action and language. And as mentioned earlier, the writing is superb! What’s not to like?

First and foremost, Kelly is a reader, then a writer and editor. She adores Regency-set novels, and cozy mysteries. Every now and then, however, she finds something else to enjoy if it has a great premise with characters who belong in there, and fabulous writing! She writes under her own name, as well as her pen-name, Hetty St. James.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Thomas Dunne Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.