What the Cat Saw

People often ask how I find books to read. Eighty percent or so come from recommendations from other people. For the other twenty percent, I browse, which gets me into trouble every time. I’ll often go into an unfamiliar library sections to see what’s there.

This latest selection came about because I wanted to read a story about cats. I’ve been missing our cat, and having a pet in general. So, I searched Overdrive, putting in the term “cat.” The mystery What the Cat Saw came up. I had never heard of the author, Carolyn Hart. But I decided to give the audiobook a try.

But did I really want to know what the cat saw? All sorts of pictures came to mind. It made me rather nervous. But I dove in anyway.

Nela Farley has been hit with a double whammy. Her fiancé, Bill, has been killed serving in Afghanistan, and she has been grieving for a while. She has also been laid off from her job as an investigative reporter at a California newspaper. When her sister Chloe calls and asks Nela to fill in for her at the Haklo Foundation while she is on vacation, Nela accepts. Maybe the change of scene to Craddock, Okla., will do her good. Besides, how difficult would it be to serve as an administrative assistant? Besides, she would be housesitting and taking care of Jugs, the cat who lives there.

From Chloe’s letters and calls, Nela learns of a recent tragedy in Craddock. The vice president of the foundation, Marian Webster, Jugs’ owner and the owner of the house where Nela will stay, has died in a fall.

But here’s where things get more than a little weird. Almost as soon as she arrives, Nela realizes that she can actually hear and understand cats’ thoughts–and they think in English! This phenomenon is never truly explained. One assumes it is from her trauma, but fortunately the author doesn’t dwell on this too long or too much, though there is the particularly sticky problem of explaining just why she thinks that Marian has been murdered. She can’t very well blurt out that it was something Jugs told her.

Those of us who have been around cats know that cats do talk through their meows. And it does seem that they really do understand English. But come on. Also, the Haklo Foundation might as well post signs saying, “Don’t work here!” Or “Go Away If You Know What’s Good For You!” Wait until you meet the staff. Office politics is definitely not typical here.

Happily, the rest of the story returns to traditional mystery conventions as Marian’s death is investigated. And yes, Nela meets a man who intrigues her. To me, a worthwhile mystery is one where you don’t guess the murderer in the first chapter. The author kept me guessing, so the story satisfied in spite of its weaknesses. It was also a pleasure hearing the reader–I don’t remember her name–performs the voices of all the characters.

I will read Carolyn Hart again. From her website, I understand that she has written multiple series, so next time I’ll try something different.



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Filed under Animals, Cats, Fiction, Mystery

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