Welcome to Part One of a series of features on Lisa Orchard.
I met Lisa through social media, and read two of her books. I have to tell you right here and now, after the first I couldn’t wait to read the second. I should have sorted out some work issues, but everything got dumped as unimportant whilst I pursued my need to read some more. And here’s the funny thing: both books are YA. And not just YA, but young-young. I’m not sure of the exact ‘audience’ in the US, but in the UK children as young as nine would happily read and enjoy them. I did, too. What does that say about me? Yes, I’m a child at heart.
Ok, I know your time is precious, so I won’t keep you waiting one second longer. Read on to learn more about Lisa Orchard, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer, read an excerpt and my review. I’ve tacked some links to the end of the post, too, and please come back next week for the second instalment on Lisa Orchard.
Lisa Orchard grew up loving books. She was hooked on mysteries by the fifth grade and even wrote a few of her own. She knew she wanted to be a writer even then. “The Super Spies and the High School Bomber” is the second book in the “Super Spies” series. Her first book was published in March of 2012 and it has received rave reviews.
After graduating from Central Michigan University with a Marketing Degree she spent many years in the insurance industry, pining to express her creative side. The decision to stay home with her children gave her the opportunity to follow her dream and become a writer. She currently resides in Rockford Michigan with her husband, Steve, and two wonderful boys. Currently, she’s working on the third novel that stars the same quirky teens. When she’s not writing she enjoys spending time with her family, running, hiking, and reading.
The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer
Description: This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman.
One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.
The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…
The house sat hunkered down as if it were tensed to spring like a cat stalking a mouse. Sarah shuddered at the thought of going up on the porch and she chewed on her thumbnail.
Looking behind her, Sarah studied the church facing the Cat Lady’s home. It was a strong structure built of huge stones. She could tell it was as old as the town itself and its presence made her feel safe. Motioning for Jackie and Lacey to follow her, she moved from the sidewalk to the huge oak tree growing on the church’s lawn. The girls hid behind it, peeking out at the witch’s home.
“Are you still going to do it?” Jackie teased.
“Do you think she’s inside?” Lacey asked wide-eyed.
Sarah smirked at her. “Where else would she be? I hear she never leaves her house.”
“Be nice.” Jackie smacked Sarah’s arm.
“What are you waiting for? Are you afraid of the witch?” Lacey asked as she stared at the house.
“She’s not a witch. She’s just a freak, that’s all.”
“Well, if she’s not …then what are you waiting for?” Jackie snickered.
“I just want to make sure the coast is clear.”
“Hey, you guys, look at all the cats,” Lacey whispered. She pointed at the clusters of felines lolling about on the porch and walking in the yard. “There has to be at least twenty of them.”
“Yeah, that’s why she’s called the Cat Lady.” Sarah rolled her eyes and then felt the sting from Jackie’s slap.
“Do you think she put a spell on those cats?” Lacey asked with a wide-eyed expression, twirling her hair with her finger.
“Could be,” Sarah snickered. “Or maybe she just…you know…gives them food.”
“Knock it off, Sarah,” Lacey glared at her sister.
Sarah stuck her tongue out at her. “Okay, I’m going for it. I’ll meet you back here.”
“Cool beans,” Jackie said.
“Cool beans? Is this town still in the nineties?” Sarah teased.
“Shut up.” Jackie smacked her arm again.
“This is physical abuse.” Sarah rubbed her arm, trying to appear injured.
Jackie laughed. “Be thankful I like hanging out with you.”
“All I have to do is ring her doorbell, right?” Sarah poked her head out from behind the tree. She noticed the tomato pulp still clinging to the siding and peered up and down the street for the notorious Wykowski boys.
“That’s right,” Jackie chuckled.
Sarah took a deep breath and sprinted across the street. She stopped at the porch stairs. A group of cats were sunning themselves on the steps—they meowed at her as if they were hungry. Jumping when one of them rubbed against her legs, she bent down and stroked its back, never taking her eyes off of the house.
Sarah petted the cat, while she worked up the courage to climb the stairs. She heard the loud purr of the contented feline and it eased her anxiety. All of a sudden, she felt a hand squeeze her arm. Her heart leapt in her chest and she let out a yelp.
Turning, she spied Jackie. “I almost peed my pants!”
“What are you doing here?” Sarah muttered and gave Jackie the evil eye.
“I couldn’t stay behind the tree and miss all the action.”
Sarah glanced around her and pointed to some overgrown bushes in front of the porch. “You can hide over there.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Sarah spied her sister running toward them and stifled a groan.
“I didn’t want to stand by myself,” Lacey whimpered, slightly out of breath. She tugged nervously on the hem of her T-shirt as she eyed the house.
Sarah groaned and her shoulders slumped as if she carried a heavy burden. She sighed and pointed at the bushes again. “You hide over there with Jackie and be quiet.”
Sarah waited until the other girls were out of sight, and then climbed the stairs. Stopping when she reached the porch, Sarah took some deep breaths before stepping onto the sagging stoop. Stepping gingerly, she hoped the porch would support her. Her stomach clenched when it groaned. She took another step and then another, the porch complaining with every footfall. Halfway across the stoop, she heard the girls behind the bushes.
“She’s almost to the door.” Lacey said in a low voice.
Sarah bit her lip, stifling the disapproving remark dancing on the tip of her tongue. Instead, she turned and glared at the bushes, willing its occupants to shut up. She made eye contact with Jackie, who quickly ducked behind the shrubs, pulling Lacey with her.
What in the world is she doing?” Lacey asked.
“Shhh,” Jackie responded.
Sarah shook her head and continued her journey. She felt Jackie and Lacey watching her as she crept toward the door. Reaching the entryway, she was surprised to find the storm door wide open. The only barrier between the Cat Lady and the rest of the world was a flimsy screen door hanging askew on its hinges.
Alarm bells rang in Sarah’s head—this has got to be out of character for someone who never leaves their home. She turned back and whispered to the other girls. “Hey!”
Jackie poked her head out. “What?”
“The storm door’s open.”
“So…what do I do?”
“Duh…Ring the door bell.”
Sarah shrugged and pushed the doorbell. It let out an irritating buzz and she had the feeling it had been broken long ago and never fixed. She dashed down the stairs. The cats scattered, alarmed by the sudden activity. Reaching the shrubs, Sarah hid with her sister and Jackie.
Gasping for breath, Sarah waited for a reaction from the old woman. Her heart pummeled her ribs and she pressed her hand to her chest to calm it.
After a few minutes, Sarah started to pace. “Well…nothing’s happened.” She peeked out from behind the shrub and saw the screen door hanging ajar. “I bet she’s not even home. I’m going to try again.”
Jackie shrugged. “Be careful, remember she’s a witch.”
Sarah shook her head, and then peered out from behind the shrubs. Once again, she climbed the stairs. She was braver this time and it didn’t take her as long to make it to the door.
She looked inside, her heart lurching in her chest. She tiptoed to the picture window and peered through it. Gasping, she ran back to the entryway. Pulling it open, she lunged inside.
Sarah stared, unable to tear herself away. Shock ran through her body like an electrical current as she eyed the scene before her. The crumpled form of the Cat Lady lay on the living room floor, just inside the door. No life flickered in the old woman’s staring eyes. Her mouth gaped open in a silent scream and her hands were up around her head as if she were warding off blows. Turning away, Sarah gagged as the coppery scent of blood assaulted her. There was blood splattered everywhere, on the wall, on the carpet and under the Cat Lady’s body.
Suddenly, Sarah’s throat constricted and she gasped for breath. Fearing she would faint, she stumbled back out the door and collided with Jackie and Lacey on the porch.
Jackie grabbed Sarah’s arm and shook her. “What are you doing? Are you crazy? I never said to go inside!”
Sarah didn’t speak—she just stared blankly at the porch.
Jackie shook her again. “Are you under the Cat Lady’s spell?”
Lacey whimpered. “Hey, Sarah….can you hear me? Sarah?”
“She’s under the Cat Lady’s spell,” Jackie said waving her hand in front of Sarah’s eyes.
“Oh my—,” Sarah moaned and clutched Jackie’s arm.
“What is it?” Jackie shook her again. “Speak…say something!”
“Th-th-the C-C-Cat Lady, sh-sh-she’s,” Sarah stuttered.
“She’s what?” Jackie demanded.
The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer is a delightful YA mystery which has kept me entranced right from the very beginning. Yes, I know I hardly qualify as the target audience for this novel, but I forget my age when I read books. In many ways, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer is like Harry Potter without wands.
The descriptions were perfect – not too much, but good enough to form a clear picture. I could see the ugly ‘face’ of the Cat Lady’s house, the willow with its drooping branches and the creek flowing nearby. The action moved smoothly on, increasing in pace again and again. Very good voice and clear narrative make this a clever choice for young readers.
Characterization was brilliant. I could picture Sarah and her younger sister – their voices distinct, despite their closeness – and Jackie, Sarah’s fashion-conscious friend. I’m not aware exactly how the details of their appearance came to settle in my brain, but I feel confident I could sketch them, if I could sketch at all. The ‘baddies’ were well described, too, and Sarah’s aunt and uncle were exactly what one would expect a protective aunt and uncle to be like.
I enjoyed the dialogues – clear, flowing, intelligent, and with a sprinkling of humour. This is the sort of book that would encourage any reluctant teen reader to pick up a book again. It’s engaging and fun. The protagonists don’t always follow the rules – what teen ever does? – but their moral compass is solid, and their intentions are always good. They are role models worth following, clever and resourceful, even when their knees shake in fright.
A delectable YA novel, full of fun and adventure, The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer fully deserves five shiny stars. Loved reading it. I wholeheartedly recommend it.
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Don’t forget to return next week, when I’ll be revealing all about the Super Spies’ next adventure.