The Big Thrill Sits Down to Discuss Nine Lives and Alibis with Cate Conte
It’s October in Daybreak Harbor, which means everything Halloween. The town is going all out for the holiday, hoping to one-up the festivities in neighboring Salem, Massachusetts, and Maddie James is delighted to be part of the planning for the annual happenings.
But trouble brews when Maddie’s youngest sister, Sam, books a famous medium, Balfour Dempsey, to come to town for the celebrations and stay in the local haunted inn—along with his equally famous black cat. The town busybody books a secret reading with Balfour and doesn’t want anyone to know why. Maddie’s best friend Becky is hell-bent on getting Balfour to help her solve two 40-year-old mysteries—a murder and a missing maid. And the psychic has a stalker who’s followed him here to the island, demanding he connect with her dead husband.
When Balfour is pushed off the cliffs behind the inn to his death and his beloved cat goes missing, it throws the whole town into a frenzy. And Maddie and her family find themselves in the middle of a murder mystery straight out of a Halloween movie.
Cate Conte recently spent time with The Big Thrill discussing book #7 in her Cat Cafe Mystery series, NINE LIVES AND ALIBIS.
When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?
Maddie James is a unique protagonist because she’s full of contrasts. She’s fiercely independent but dedicated to her family and ultimately makes the choice to give up a lot of her independence to return to them. She loves animals more than most people and had to find a way to bring her entrepreneurial skills to a venture that seemed implausible where she lives—cat cafes are usually more suited to urban areas than small islands! But she’s not one to back away from a challenge. I wanted her to be different than some of the usual cozy protagonists—so while she did return to her family home, she does so in a different, refreshing way. She’s never waiting around for things to happen to her.
Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?
I was listening to a podcast about a missing woman who disappeared the night of a party and was never found, and the idea stuck in my head—I knew I had to work it into this book. Since I love Halloween, I thought it would be fun to make it a Halloween party and have parts of her Catwoman costume the only thing left. I also love ghosts and psychics—and I thought bringing all three to Daybreak Harbor would be a fun story for Maddie to get involved in. And as a Crime Junkie, I am fascinated with cold cases and really wanted to challenge myself to tie two cold cases and one current murder together seamlessly.
Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?
As a ghost lover, The Shining was definitely an inspiration. This book isn’t as dark, but revisiting the way King captures the creepiness of the Overlook and the ghosts that live there definitely inspired me as I was thinking about my own ghosts.
In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?
Something the legendary Dennis Lehane said always stuck with me: “No matter what you’re writing, make sure it’s about something.” I am passionate about animal rescue, and I have passed that on to Maddie. I hope my books help educate readers about rescue—both what it takes to do the work and why it’s so important to always choose rescue when choosing your furbabies. Also, I think this story is about never giving up on finding answers. They’re always there, just below the surface, and no matter how long it takes to uncover them, they’re always available to you.
What can you share about what you’re working on next?
The next book in the Cat Cafe Mysteries involves a Christmas light festival on Daybreak Island, a murdered newspaper publisher and a mysterious influx of Chinese Crested dogs in town. Maddie has to figure out how all of this is connected before her best friend takes the fall for the murder.
Cate Conte writes the Cat Cafe Mysteries and the Full Moon Mysteries. As Liz Mugavero, she writes the Pawsitively Organic Mysteries, the first of which was an Agatha Award nominee for Best First Novel. She lives in Connecticut with her rescue pals. To learn more, please visit her website.
Nine Lives and Alibis with Cate Conte