I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.
As I mentioned in my review of the first book in this series, I almost passed on it. Being able to read an animal's mind just presents as an overly cheesy gimmick to me. Luckily, I have online book friends, because I'd have missed out on what is turning out to be one of the best cozies currently written (imho). Book one, Woof at the Door was really good. A Tiger's Tale might just be even slightly better. Either way, the author gets a bonus .5 star for the legitimate, repeated use of "Happy Asses" throughout the book.
I really like every single one of the recurring characters. All of them come across as rich, realistic, likeable individuals without resorting to exaggerated eccentricities. Grace's sister, Emma, was a tad over bearing in the first book, but much less pushy - actually, not at all pushy, in A Tiger's Tale. Kai (a Crime Scene Investigator) is adjusting to Grace's gift, trying to learn about it it a way that plays true: he's open-minded but not without questions. I also really like the pacing of the romance between Grace and Kai; it's subtle, and there's a mental courtship as well as a physical one and the physical is moving at a slower pace. Nice. Keeps a reader's interest level up while stretching out the romantic tension over a longer period of time.
The story is sprinkled with humour and various visits with animals as Grace makes her rounds as an animal behaviourist in private practise. There are scenes with various dogs and cats (a scene with a poodle made me laugh) but it's the 'exotics' that make what Grace does so interesting to me. Jack-Jack the miniature donkey's intelligence coupled with stubbornness made me smile and there's a great scene with flying foxes at a goth wedding. The introduction of a black kitten, Voodoo, to Grace's household was adorable, but more adorable was Moss' (Grace's wolf-hybrid) reaction to Voodoo.
The plot really shines. Instead of forcing a story line to justify the amateur sleuth's investigation, the author has found a story line that offers a very realistic situation for Grace going off on her own. (Once you suspend belief enough for Tiger mind-melds.)
Grace is called to "Happy Asses" Donkey and Big Cat Rescue on an emergency to help out a fellow veterinarian treed by Boris the Tiger during a check-up. Using her unique gift of telepathy with animals, Grace gets an image of teen-aged rescue volunteer Brooke and one word: Taken. Grace immediately calls Kai, who looks over the scene, but heavy rains leave nothing to find. Without evidence or human witnesses, there isn't a crime to report. Brooke is a troubled teen on probation with a habit of running away, so her parents are disinclined to report her missing. Frustrated by a lack of official options and an apathetic family, and influenced by Boris' anxiety, Grace starts looking for evidence that will allow the police to make Brooke's disappearance official.
The author crafts her mystery plot around Brooke's disappearance, fleshing it out and building it up so that there's more going on that what appears on the surface. There is a dead body, but it appears late, and it's never central to the plot, rather just a complication in an already complicated story. Grace is not without fault -- she's guilty of making some stupid decisions. Mostly they don't rank as TSTL moments, just more "what were you thinking?!"
Overall, this book is definitely one of the strongest, well-written cozies I've read this year. If you like cozies involving animals, with a touch of paranormal (just a touch), I'd urge you to give this series a shot. Hopefully you'll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.