Charlie has an uncomfortably flirtatious new neighbor, Gerry, who seems interested in buying up homes in the area. When she invites him to her big Christmas party, he decides to go in order to be polite but makes sure to take Helen Louise, his girlfriend, with him. Both of them are shocked when the party ends with Gerry's death, quite likely due to poison.
Kanesha's in charge of the investigation, and Charlie does his best to stay in her good graces by keeping his nose out of it. Mostly. It helps that he has a lot on his plate. His daughter-in-law is running herself ragged trying to take care of her new baby and might land herself in the hospital soon if she doesn't accept help. Also, in addition to Diesel, Charlie now has five mystery kittens to take care of. Someone, quite possibly a scared child, left them on his doorstep, and he's determined to find out who it was and see if they can be reunited.
Content warning for this book:
Transphobia, although not on the part of the main character or any of his friends.
The only other book I've read in this series was the first one. I normally like to read series in order when I can, but this was the only audiobook in this series that my library owned, so I figured I'd give it a shot. Honestly, skipping eight books wasn't too much of an issue. I could tell character relationships had changed: Kanesha has softened towards Charlie, Charlie now had a girlfriend, and his relationship with his son was better. There was even a part where Charlie thought back to what his life was like at the beginning of the series, so if there were any gaps in my memories of him and his relationships, they were filled in pretty neatly.
I read the paper version of the first book, so this was my first audiobook experience with the series. Bennett was a good cozy mystery narrator, but maybe not the best choice for this particular series, which features a first person male POV. Most of the secondary characters are female, so maybe that was a factor, but I still think a male narrator would have been better.
Anyway, now for the story itself. Oddly enough, the primary mystery seemed to be the kittens and the identity of the person who dropped them off. The murder was more secondary - although Charlie chatted with friends about it and did a little bit of research, he did mostly stay out of it, and as a result, most of the resolution happened off-page. While it was certainly a tragic story, I found it to be a bit weak.
The kitten storyline, on the other hand, was nice. Diesel got multiple opportunities to act as their adorable giant babysitter, and Charlie tried to resist being charmed by Ramses, the only one of the bunch with a distinct personality. I enjoyed Charlie's efforts to figure out who left the kittens, and the whole thing was resolved in a very warm and fuzzy way.
All in all, this made for a decent listen. I wish my library owned more audiobooks in this series, although thankfully I do own a used copy of Book 8 that I haven't read yet.