I have always loved cats. I have always loved children's mysteries. Ergo, it makes sense that I would love The Curious Cat Spy Club mystery series.
And quite frankly, I do. Now, the mysteries are not overly complicated, and they are written for the younger side of a young adult audience - but, they are fun and have believable characters that share not only real dialogue but face true-to-life situations (such as homework, chores, family problems, etc.). The three young stars (Kelsey, Becca, and Leo) are far from perfect, they make mistakes, and they sometimes get their feelings hurt - but like all childhood friends, they stick by one another, and they grow and learn together as they solve these mysteries.
In The Mystery of the Zorse's Mask, Kelsey and Leo come to Becca's aid when a man comes to town claiming to be the owner of the zorse (which is a real animal - a cross-breeding between a male zebra and a female horse) that has spent the last six months at Becca's mom's wild life preserve healing from wounds inflicted upon it by an unknown source. Becca is certain that this man is the cause of the zorse's wounds, but Kelsey and Leo aren't so sure. When the zorse's sparkling fly mask turns up missing, the owner decides to stick around town until it is found, giving Becca a few more days with the zorse (and a few more days to prove that he hurt the animal!).
The books are told in a first person point-of-view, which seems to be the popular storytelling method these days. She allows us to see the CCSC-world through Kelsey's eyes - a young teenage girl who is sometimes unsure of herself, looking to make friends as well as be a friend, who has a sharp mind and a heart of gold (but who has a tendency to act before she thinks, which gets her in some VERY hot water in this book). I'm fine with that, as so many books are written from this perspective these days, you get rather used to it. And although everything is from Kelsey's perspective, readers do get more insight into Leo's and Becca's personal lives, their family situations, and even their friendships with other students. The one thing I thought very touching was Leo, who is usually a loner, making friends with a potential suspect, which causes a bit of friction between the three friends - but Kelsey eventually comes to realize what that new friend means for Leo, and it tears her heart when she and Becca learn a secret that this new friend is hiding. How can she break the news to Leo without hurting their friendship?
What I'm still getting used to is the fact that the stories are told in present tense. To be honest, I find when I'm reading that my mind automatically switches it to past tense, and there are moments where I suddenly realize it's present, not past, and I get jarred out of the story. I've read some other books recently written in present tense, and I am left to wonder if this is not the next thing in fiction storytelling (just as first-person storytelling has become more prevalent than third-person any more). I guess only time will tell...
As with the ending of the first book, there is a hint of things to come at the ending of this book, although we don't get the title of the next mystery as the old Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books used to do back in the day. (Well, okay, that's not exactly true, there is a one-page ad in the back for "Kesley the Spy," which is the title for the third book in the series - but it's not written into the text like the ND/HB books of old).
All in all, a very enjoyable read, and I would recommend it to anyone who loves children's mystery series.
RATING: 9 jewel-studded fly masks out of 10 for bringing cats and mysteries together again (which is a combination I've missed since the end of Lilian Jackson Braun's "The Cat Who..." series)