Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar Reviewed by Wally Wood of
Wally Wood

Reviewer Wally Wood: Wally is an editor and writer, has published three novels, Getting Oriented:A Novel about Japan, The Girl in the Photo an  Death in a Family Business. He obtained his MA in creative writing in 2002 from the City University of New York and has worked with a number of authors as a ghostwriter and collaborator.

With an extensive background in a variety of business subjects, his credits include twenty-one nonfiction books. He spent twenty-five years as a trade magazine reporter and editor and has been a volunteer writing and business teacher in state and federal prisons for more than twenty years. He has finished his fourth novel and has translated a collection of Japanese short stories into English.

By Wally Wood
Published on December 7, 2017

Author: Pamela Gossiaux

Publisher: Tri-Cat Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9976387-5-2

Author: Pamela Gossiaux

Publisher: Tri-Cat Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9976387-5-2

I am not the audience for romance novels so you romance lovers should take this discussion with healthy skepticism or stop reading right now. Pamela Gossiaux's second novel, Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar, is billed "A Romantic Mystery." It is a romance, but not what most mystery readers would call a mystery (there's no dead body).

Abigail Chartwell, 30 years old, has thick red hair and green eyes. "She was a beautiful woman, and most men couldn't meet her eyes for more than a few seconds before becoming tongue-tied." She was married briefly to her true love, but he was killed six years ago, a death for which Abigail irrationally blames herself and for which she has locked down her emotions. She wears fake glasses, her wedding ring, dowdy clothes, and her hair in a bun, all to discourage any man who might find her attractive as a librarian in the map department of an unnamed city that has a university, a river, and a lot of snow.

Abigail might have lived out her days, guilty, solitary, and emotionally stunted but one night as she happened to work late, Tony Russo, 32, stunningly handsome with thick, curly black hair, a muscular body covered in black spandex, a tantalizing aftershave, and smile that would the coldest heart drops in. Literally. He descends from a skylight into the map department on a rope, intent on stealing a certain map. 

Abigail manages to set off the silent alarm (Tony has disabled the rest of the library's security system, an skill he uses to burglarize stores and mansions), but does she describe him and their conversation to her friend, Jimmy the Cop, who arrives? Of course not. 

Abigail cannot understand her own feelings. Feelings for this charming, movie-star handsome  burglar. Someone she trusts when he tells her about his dying grandmother and his quest to find a long-hidden painting, one painted more than a hundred years earlier by the internationally famous Antonio Rosso and today worth millions—millions!—a painting of Tony's great-great grandmother who was Antonio's lover for three rhapsodic months in Paris, a painting Antonio's wife tried to destroy (she settled on burning down his studio), a painting Antonio managed to finish before her pregnancy began to show.  

And Tony has seen something in Abigail's lovely green eyes that provokes feelings he's never really known. Deep feelings. Feelings that make him think of giving up his side business as burglar and go straight. If he could find the painting, he'd be set for life.

Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar is the kind of book that to sketch the situation is to give away the story. Will Tony melt Abigail's frozen emotions? Will Abigail help Tony find the hidden painting? Will Tony's grandmother live? Will Abigail and Tony find happiness together with an apt Shakespeare quote? 

(The answer to all of the above is yes.)

Of course there are obstacles. In fact, Shakespeare himself gets quoted: "The course of true love never did run smooth." Midway through the novel Tony needs $10,000 to buy a single dose of an experimental cancer drug that might help his grandmother. In a restaurant he meets an older, attractive, wealthy woman with whom he's been intimate in the past to sell her a stolen diamond necklace for the $10,000. Although Abigail generally stays home after work, this evening she goes out to do some grocery shopping and happens to spot Tony and the woman together. Not only talking, Tony actually kisses the woman's hand! "Abigail couldn't peel her own eyes away from the scene. Her heart started pounding, and she felt her stomach churning. She felt like she was going to throw up."

Does she confront Tony the next day? Does she ask him about the woman? When she cuts him dead, does Tony make any connection between his client in the restaurant and Abigail's abrupt change of heart? To ask the questions is to answer. And do they get back together? Silly you; of course they do.

Because, as I said at the beginning, I am not the audience for romance, I cannot say where Mrs. Chartwell and the Cat Burglar might fit on the continuum of superior to godawful. I think it's somewhere in the middle. As the man says, if this is the sort of thing you like, you'll like it.