I like cats and I like reading novels. Judging by the number of cats I see on book covers, I’m not alone. Here are some of my current favorite series where cats are among the continuing characters.
Clea Simon has to be the queen of mysteries that include cats. Her Dulcie Schwartz series is an academic semi-cozy that features the ghost of Dulcie’s recently departed and much-loved pet, Mr. Grey. Dulcie isn’t sure at first of what’s going on, and Mr. Grey’s appearances are deftly handled, with a nice degree of subtlety. As the series progresses, Dulcie becomes the unwilling custodian of a new kitten, but by the end of the third book, Dulcie and the new kit are beginning to forge a bond, even as Mr. Grey continues to grace her (and the kit?) with his ghostly wisdom. Fans of academic mysteries in particular will enjoy this series, which features graduate student Dulcie wrestling with her Harvard dissertation as she navigates the sometimes politically charged waters of the University’s English department. Ms. Simon’s knowledge of the Boston/Cambridge area gives us a good taste of local color in this most prestigious college town.
Ms. Simon’s new series features a very different sort of heroine and a different twist on the paranormal slant. Where Dulcie is often full of hesitancy and self-doubt, Pru Marlowe is often surly and seldom out to please her fellow humans, as befits the heroine of this self-titled “pet noir” series who name cleverly echoes that of Raymond Chandler’s famous gumshoe. While Dulcie sees her cat’s ghost, Pru can hear animals’ thoughts. Though some of these thoughts drive her crazy (especially the inane twitterings of birds), she’s far more sympathetic to the four-footed among us, and her urgency to fight for the lives of animals who have been wrongly accused of murder gives readers a heroine to root for and a cause to celebrate.
Like Dulcie’s ghostly sightings, Pru’s talent is handled with surety and flair. The animals’ thoughts feel authentically animal-like, far removed from any suggestion of sentimentality, cutesiness, or anthropomorphism. One of the best realized characters in this series is Pru’s wonderfully grumpy cat, whose personality in some ways reflects Pru’s own.
A recent voice on the cats-in-mysteries scene belongs to Amber Foxx, author of the new series of “murderless mysteries” featuring psychic and healer Mae Martin. In THE CALLING, the first book in Ms. Foxx’s series, Mae’s very first intuition of her psychic stirrings occurs at a young age when she sets out to find her mother’s cat, which has escaped their house on the very first day of their move to a new neighborhood. Unlike Pru, Mae doesn’t hear the cat’s voice in her head, but she can see in her mind a cat’s-eye view of the discombobulated feline’s hiding place and is able to figure out where the cat has gone. Later in the book, a grown-up Mae reluctantly exercises her psychic gift to locate her neighbor’s injured cat—an act that turns out to have far-reaching ramifications for her reputation in the small-town, small-minded community.
The second book in the series, SHAMAN’S BLUES, features yet another cat, this time one who has been traumatized. This time, Mae doesn’t have any success, but a new friend in her life, the frustrating and often enigmatic Jamie, turns out to have a natural gift for healing this particular soul-injured pet. It’s a nice way of showing Jamie’s personality and talents on multiple levels, handled with great subtlety and sensitivity.
Here’s hoping to read many more in all three of these series. Brava to both authors!
How about you? What are some of your favorite novels with cats?