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Assassin. Private Investigator. Cat shifter.

Kat is used to killing people, but for a blank cheque, she’s willing to do the opposite and help solve a murder – even though it sounds boring as hell. That is, until she finds some body parts in her fridge, makes friends with the neighbourhood cats and realises there may be an assassin better than her…

Suddenly, things have become purrfectly exciting.

Paperback ISBN: 9781913556273 (special anniversary edition)
Hardcover ISBN: 9781913556266

What readers say...

This is the first time I have read a book by this author and I am so glad I took a gamble and purchased Meow. ... the way the author portrays the heroine is masterful ... I am now eagerly awaiting the next book in the series

Amazon review

This delightful paranormal mystery is perfect for fans of Nalini Singh.

Publishers Weekly

Purrfect start to a new series. MacKinnon sunk her claws into my mind right away with her unique world and loveable assassin, and she wouldn't release me until the last word. I cannot wait to see what happens in the sequel.

~ Catherine Banks
USA Today Bestselling Author

My new favourite audiobook. I absolutely loved this book. It’s cat-woman/batman meets cozy mystery. Melody narrates this beautifully and I felt connected to the feminine world.

Goodreads review

The kitten is staring at me as if I’m either a funny new toy or prey that needs killing. Maybe a little bit of both. He meows loudly, challenging me. I meow back, a hundred times louder. He looks at me in shock, then runs off, his fur ruffled in fear.

“Sorry, little one,” I whisper. “I don’t need any witnesses tonight.”

I continue my walk along the rooftops, as silently as the kitten that I can still feel at the back of my mind. He’s watching me from afar, probably wondering what the hell is going on. I’m a threat to his territory, yet he hasn’t quite mustered the courage to confront me. Good. I really don’t want to be distracted tonight.

I jump from one roof to the next, occasionally stopping to make sure I’m on the right track. It’s much harder to orient yourself when you’re on rooftops without the help of street signs and landmarks. My sense of direction is good, but I don’t always trust it. That’s what they taught me. Never trust anyone, not even what your mind tells you. Not what you hear, not what you see. The world is nothing but lies knitted together into a fabric that looks as if it’s real.

When I reach a rooftop so old and dilapidated that even I can’t help but summon a creaking sound from the broken tiles, I stop in my tracks, carefully crouching, ready to jump. I don’t have much information on my mark, not nearly as much as I’d like. I don’t know how strong they are and more importantly, how paranoid. Most people in this town suffer from some kind of paranoia, but some have it worse than others. Last week’s first ever witch hunt in centuries is proof of that. Poor bugger.

When there’s no sound from the house below, I continue on towards the dormer window. It’s got an old wooden frame that looks like it’s the mother of all splinters. Not going to touch that without gloves.

I take a cursory peek over the edge of the garret. No light, good. I grip the edge of the roof, pushing down on it a few times. It seems to be stable enough to hold me. Let’s hope so, anyway.

Holding onto the edge with just my fingers, I let myself drop down until I’m dangling right in front of the window. According to the information I was given, this is just an attic used for storage. It should be empty. I swing back and stretch my legs out in front of me, kicking in the window as I swing forward. It’s so old that it barely offers any resistance. I could have probably just pushed it in with my hands.

I drop to the floor, freezing in motion, listening to whatever’s happening in the house. There’s nothing but silence. He’s either sleeping or not in. I hope for the former. I dread coming all the way here again. This house is at the opposite end of town from where I live. I try to avoid staying out in the open for too long. I’ve lost count of how many bounties there are on my head, but it was about a dozen last I checked. It fills me with pride, in a sick sort of way. People out there are scared of me. They better be. Fear is an excellent protection. If people fear you, they’re less likely to try and attack you.

I stay in the same crouched position for another few minutes, but when there’s still no sound, I get to my feet and take a torch from my backpack. I do a quick sweep of the room. Besides a few dusty cardboard boxes, it’s empty, just like I was told. Judging from the thick layer of dust on the floor, nobody has been up here in weeks.

It’s quite a pretty space, actually. With a bit of a clean, this would make a lovely attic room. The wooden beams reaching through the floor up to the very top would be perfect to tie a hammock between. So much better than the hole I currently call my home.

A noise down below startles me but my training kicks in enough to keep me from jumping. I stay where I am, feet rooted to the floor, not making a sound. There are footsteps, slow and heavy. More of a shuffling rather than walking. I wasn’t told the age of my mark but judging from this sound alone, I’d guess someone old. Those are the easiest. Not just in terms of the job, but also by being easiest on my conscience. Old people die anyway. They don’t have much life left for me to steal. Less guilt to live with.

I stay in my position, not daring to do any movement at all, until the sound of the toilet flushing and more shuffling announce that he’s back in his bedroom. Time to act before I get covered in dust like the rest of this room.

Carefully, I move towards the trapdoor. Compared to the rest of the house, it’s somewhat modern with shiny metal hinges that look like they won’t squeak too much. I work in slow motion, gently opening the trap door and lowering the ladder. The slower I move, the less likely I am to make a sound.

By the time I step off the last rung, I’m bored. I much prefer a quick and easy backstreet assassination over creeping through someone’s house. Not only does it take forever, but it also shows me a kind of life that I’ve never had and never will have. Paintings on the wall. Photographs in dusty frames. A rug frayed at the edges, turned dark by time and too many footsteps. At the end of the corridor is a sorry looking houseplant in a pot too large for it. I bet it’s not been watered for weeks. Maybe, once I’ve killed its owner, I’m going to give it some water. Call it part of the service.

I tiptoe along the hallway towards the sound of gentle snoring. The direction fits with the mental map I’ve built of the house while I listened to the owner’s trip to the toilet. The door on my right will lead to his bedroom. I pull my knives from the scabbards secured to my belt. I only oiled them yesterday, so they don’t make a sound as I ready my weapons of choice. Both have been dipped in poison, making this a much subtler method than just stabbing people. A simple nick with my blade and they’ll be dead half an hour later. It’s more personal than using darts like some of my colleagues. No, let’s not call them that. Compatriots. Miserable sods trapped in the same life I am.

I take a deep but soundless breath and push open the door. It’s almost completely dark, but my eyes adjust quickly, already used to the dim light from the corridor. There’s a figure lying on the bed, covered by several blankets. That man must really be cold. It’s late spring and by now, one duvet should suffice.

I carefully approach the bed from the left, my blades at the ready. Maybe I should just use the poison today. Let him drift off into death during his sleep. Much nicer and definitely much less bloody than cutting his throat. His bed sheets are of high quality and I’d hate to ruin them. Maybe he has some heirs who’d like to inherit them without bloodstains.

Putting one of the blades back into its scabbard, I pull a tiny needle from a hidden pocket sewn into the collar of my shirt. Much less impressive than my knives but let’s not be too violent today. The carnage I left behind at yesterday’s mark made up for that.

I reach over to prick the man – and notice my mistake. The snoring has stopped, and it must have been gone ever since I entered the room. The man in front of me is not breathing.

“Not very bright, are you?”

I whirl around, ready to throw my blade at the man whose voice is coming from a dark corner of the room. A room I hadn’t checked for traps. Big mistake. Without taking my eyes off the shadows he’s hiding in, I shake the man behind me. He’s too light. It’s not actually a body. Please tell me I didn’t just fall for the pillows-beneath-the-blanket trick. I really deserve to be caught. Too busy getting distracted by pot plants and rugs.

“Who are you?” I challenge him, my voice as sharp as I can make it. Let’s not show any insecurity or fear.

“I was told they’d send one of their best,” he mutters as if to himself. “I’m not convinced that’s you.”

“You’re my mark?”

He steps out of the shadows and I let my needle drop, pulling my second knife instead. Even in the dim light, it’s clear that the man really is old, but that doesn’t stop him moving in a strange, fluid way that reminds me of a predator stalking his prey. The shuffling walk to the bathroom must have been an act.

“You took your time,” he says instead of an answer. “Although, I guess that’s a good sign. Sometimes, patience is more important than intelligence.”

He seems intent on insulting me, but I don’t react to his provocation. I’m practised in not listening to what other people say to me.

“What do you want?” I ask. Somehow, it’s clear to me that he’s not here to kill his assassin. He could have done that as soon as I walked through the door. Jumped me from behind, slit my throat or banged a pan against my head. Whatever he fancied.

“I have a proposition for you,” he replies calmly. “You’re not as good as I expected, but I suppose you’ll have to do. How would you like to become self-employed?”

I chuckle humourlessly. “No chance in hell.”

Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t. I’m not going to tell him that. Never give away your weaknesses.

“Because of the collar around your neck?” he asks.

My mind takes a stumble. How did he know? Nobody does. Instinctively, my hand flies to my throat, checking if my scarf is still in place. It is. He shouldn’t be able to see the collar.

“How?” I ask, knowing that he’ll know exactly what I mean.

He chuckles. “Trade secret. But here’s the deal. I remove the collar, you start your own agency. I’ll occasionally give you marks, but otherwise, you’re independent. I might even throw in a cash injection to start you off.”

I want to gape and throw a thousand questions at him, but I keep my expression neutral. “What do you get out of it?”

He laughs again. “I’ve been wanting to leave this city for a while. Let’s pretend you killed me. I get peace and quiet, you can have the house and my existing contact lists. That should help you get things running.”

Confusion is slowing my brain down. He wants me to start my own assassin business? Take my collar? Give me his house? This has to be a test.

“Prove it,” I challenge him. “Prove you can get rid of this thing.”

I rip my scarf off my neck, exposing the bronze collar around my throat. I’ve grown used to the tightness of it, the way it’s almost painful when I swallow. The few times when I was without one, back when I was still growing and needed to be fitted a new one every year or so, I felt almost naked without it. It’s become part of me, part of my identity. We all have them. Everyone in the Pack.

“I’ll need to come closer,” he warns me. “And what do you think about some light?”

He flicks the light switch before I can say something and the lamp above me flickers on. It’s a dim, energy saving one that will take a moment to get to full brightness. I’m glad, it makes it easier on my eyes.

Finally, I get to see my mark. He’s surprisingly tall with a black top hat on his white hair. A well-manicured beard hides his angular chin, but it doesn’t distract from the deep scars lining both of his cheekbones. If they weren’t there, he’d look like a gentleman, an academic perhaps who spends most of his life behind a desk or surrounded by books. Those scars though tell a different story.

“Who are you?” I ask, repeating my question before a suspicion makes its way through my confusion. “Did you put a mark on yourself to get me here?”

“Good,” is all he says as he walks towards me. I fight my instincts to flinch and run away, staying rooted in my spot instead. I’m too curious for my own good. Letting someone as dangerous as him close to me is never a good idea. But here I am, unmoving as he lifts his right hand to my neck while his left disappears in his jacket pocket.

Curiosity killed the cat. They’d put that on my gravestone if anyone bothered to bury me. Which is unlikely. I’ll probably end up a corpse floating in a river or thrown into one of those big communal rubbish bins. A fitting end to a life that’s consisted of not much else besides killing and thieving.

I pull the collar of my shirt out of the way as he gently runs his fingers over the collar.

“They’ve progressed a bit since I last saw them, but it’s simple enough. Don’t move, this won’t take long.”

He closes his eyes. This would be the perfect moment to take him out. Do what I’m supposed to do and return home, pick up breakfast and then nap for a bit.

But no, I’m stupid and curious. If there’s a chance he can rid me of the collar that’s determined my life until this very point, it’s worth the risk. People before me have tried to take off the collars. All of them have failed. I don’t know why I even believe this man. It’s likely just a trick. I already fell for his illusions once. The first time was an accident, a moment of absentmindedness, the second is plain stupidity and recklessness.

Well, I never said I was clever.

“It’s going to open in a moment,” the man mutters. “Steel yourself, this may be overwhelming.”

He doesn’t give me any time to prepare. The collar springs open with a strange crunching sound and I suck in a deep breath, staggering back. My heartbeat is growing faster, and I can feel the hairs on my skin stand up. A growl comes from my throat.

“Easy there,” the man says soothingly. “You can keep control. You’re strong.”

Tears prick my eyes when pain shoots through my fingertips. I don’t need to look down to know that my claws have just broken through my skin. I blink rapidly, the colours of the room changing whenever I blink, alternating between the bright room and blurry, washed out shapes. Like a painter ran a sponge over his artwork to soak up parts of the colours and the clear lines.

“You’re in control.”

My ears flick towards the man’s voice. He’s louder now and I can hear nuances in his tone that weren’t there before.

Memories flood my mind. I’ve experienced this before. Long ago. Before the collar was fixed around my neck. Running through long grass, so many scents, the sounds of insects as loud as traffic noise. My paws soft on the ground, my claws…

Control. I take another deep breath and focus on that thought. Control. I’m in control. Not the animal. Not the beast hiding inside of me.

Slowly, the claws retreat and my heartbeat slows down. It takes another minute for my vision to go back to normal, but I don’t take my eyes off the old man who’s retreated back to the corner, watching me.

“They chose well, sending you here tonight,” he says when I’m ready. “You’ve got enough control to deal with it. You wouldn’t have needed a collar. They should have taken it off ages ago. Well, their loss is my gain. But let’s talk business.”

“Business?” I ask, my mouth dry. I feel strange. Like that weakness you get just before you fall ill, where you don’t quite know what’s going on and you can’t put your finger on why you’re not feeling as well as you usually do. I run my hand over my throat. The skin where the collar sat is soft and sensitive. Weak. I flip up the collar of my shirt and put my scarf back on. And remember that I should probably warn the man.

“You may want to take this,” I say and throw a tiny vial towards him that I had hidden in one of the many pockets of my shirt.

He catches it easily and looks at it curiously. “What’s that?”

“Antidote to the poison I gave you.” I grin. “Sorry, I wasn’t sure if you’d actually take off the collar or had some more sinister plans.”

He raises an eyebrow. “Darts?”

I nod. “Hidden in my collar. I pricked you when you put your hands around my throat.”

“Well, I didn’t see that coming. Impressive. Seems you’re cleverer than you look.”

He uncorks the vial and swallows the contents. I’m amazed he trusts me not to poison him. Of course, I’ve already done that, but it could always be a double bluff.

He screws up his face at the taste. “Next time, add a little cinnamon. It enhances the aftertaste.”

I keep my face passive. “I’ll keep it under advisement.”

“There’s a lab in the basement. In the office, you’ll find a folder with all the necessary key codes to get around the house and into the important rooms.”

He picks up on my questioning look.

“The weapons storage, the lab I mentioned, the training gym and the morgue.”

This time, I can’t help but gasp. “A morgue? In this house?”

He looks at me strangely.

“Of course. Doesn’t your current employer have one?”

I shake my head. “We just dispose of the bodies or leave them to be found.”

He clucks his tongue. “Such a waste. There is much to learn about death by studying corpses. And you never know when you might need a well-placed corpse to send someone a message.”

In a way, he makes sense, but at the same time, do I want to live in a house above a morgue? Then I remind myself: I’m an assassin. The one thing I’m really not scared about is death. There are a lot worse things on Earth than death itself.

“I don’t think my current employer,” I emphasise that last word as it’s the one thing I’d never call Brut, “will just let me go. He’s invested in me, he’s trained me. He won’t accept me leaving and opening my own agency.”

“Don’t worry about that,” the man says dismissively. “He won’t trouble you. What you need to concern yourself with is who to hire. I have a lot of work for you and you won’t be able to handle it all on your own. You can start small, but at some point, I expect you to have at least as many employees as your current manager.”

Employer, manager, is he using euphemisms or does he really believe that’s how it works? Slavemaster would be more accurate. Owner. It’s not like we ever signed up to work for him. There’s no wage either. Does this man expect me to be like Brut or does he want me to run things differently?

“You’ll find everything else you need in the office, including your first case. Of course, you’re free to do as you wish, but my only condition is that my assignments always take priority over others. In return, you get the house, some cash and, of course, a collarless life. Do you agree?”

I don’t have to think twice. Not because I wholeheartedly agree with all he’s promising. I’m expecting him to break his promises anyway. But no, I’m good at double-crossing people. Very good. And no matter what he believes of me, the one thing I’m really good at is looking out for myself.

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Meow Audiobook

Narrated by

Melody Muzljakovich
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Books in Series

Book 1
Book 2
Book 3
Book 4
Book 5
Book 6
Book 7
Book 8
Catnip Assassins Books 1-4
Books 1-4
Catnip Assassins Books 5-7
Books 5-7
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The Complete Series