Cats in Fiction

First in the Dulcie Schwarz series

First in the Dulcie Schwarz series

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.

dogs don't lie

First in the Pru Marlowe series

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.

No murders, just mysteries. Love is a mystery. Every person is a mystery. Every life hides a secret. The first Mae Martin psychic mystery Published December, 2013

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 Mae Martin psychic mystery Coming in 2014

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?

10 Comments

  1. March 14, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    Though I read many cat mystery books, and love them all, I’d have to say that my favorite book is my own, Black Cat’s Legacy, just released this month and available at Amazon in paperback and e-book. Thumper, with the aid of his ancestors’ memories, knows where the bodies are buried. He must help Kimberlee solve her father’s cold case murder. A little romance, intrigue and whimsy don’t hurt. Thumper narrates part of the story from his own POV. Black Cat’s Legacy is available at my website, http://www.mindcandymysteries.com or at Amazon. I would love for you to review my book, Nancy. Hope to hear from you soon.

    • Nancy Adams said,

      March 14, 2014 at 3:01 pm

      Hi Elaine,

      That sounds like a fun book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  2. clea Simon said,

    March 14, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    Thanks so much for this, Nancy! And if your readers would like to try my series for themselves, I have excerpts up on my home page at http://www.cleasimon.com

  3. sheilaboneham said,

    March 14, 2014 at 4:17 pm

    Always a fun topic! I love Clea’s books (hi, Clea), and will take a look at Amber’s. My Animals in Focus series tends to get labeled “dog mysteries” but in fact there is a very heroic protagcat, Leo. He and his ilk take center stage in Catwalk, coming in the fall. I love Carole Nelson’s Midnight Louie, too.

    btw, I have started a new blog called Writers & Other Animals – I hope you’ll drop by there, too. http://www.writersandotheranimals.blogspot.com
    Thanks for post, Nancy.

    • Nancy Adams said,

      March 15, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      HI Sheila,

      I like the Midnight Louie books, too, and will put Animals in Focus on the ole TBR pile.

      thanks for stopping by!

  4. gaylefeyrer said,

    March 14, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    I’ll look into these. My guilty pleasure is the Joe Grey talking cats mysteries, on the classic side of cozy.

    • Nancy Adams said,

      March 15, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      Ooo, never heard of these, but I will definitely look them up. You always have such interesting books in your Goodreads “read” pile, and I often look there to get some interesting titles.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  5. ambfoxx said,

    March 17, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Cats I’ve enjoyed in mysteries:
    Anna Pigeon’s cat Piedmont doesn’t play a role in the plots, but he’s a steady factor in Anna’s sometimes turbulent life. She relocates often, and her relationships change, but there is always Piedmont. This is a series by Nevada Barr, featuring a law enforcement ranger. For those who have not yet discovered it, I recommend Barr’s beautiful language and Anna’s tough yet likeable character, and of course the National Park settings.

    In M.C. Beaton’s Hamish Macbeth series, set in a small Scottish highland town, Hamish’s “weird pets”, as they are often described by those who know him, play a key role in his life and sometimes in the plots. His tamed wildcat Sonsie does a heroic deed in one book, and alarms people in others.

    Hamish and Anna both have moments in which their cats seem better company to them than members of the opposite sex.

    In James D. Doss’s mystical/comic/mystery/Western Charlie Moon series, the half-Ute orphan Sarah Frank (who becomes a kind of apprentice to shaman Daisy Perika) has a cat, Mr. Zigzag. He is, like Anna’s Piedmont, sometimes the only steady presence in a much-disrupted life. Mr. Zigzag goes from kitten to elderly cat in the series as Sarah grows from child to college student, and he goes on treks with Sarah and Daisy into Canyon Del Espiritu, where the spirits dwell. I used to find his taking those long walks odd until I saw a group of people on a walk in a park with a cat following them. I guess Doss must have known a hiking cat, too.

    • Nancy Adams said,

      March 18, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      Hi Amber,

      These all sound like wonderful books. I’ve read the first few in Nevada Barr’s series and this is a reminder to continue with more. And the James Doss books sound just incredible!

      Thanks for the recommendations.

  6. March 20, 2014 at 4:43 pm

    […] of my favorite mystery writers feature unusual pets in their sure-to-please-animal-lovers stories. Last week I mentioned Clea Simon‘s great way with cats, but her “Pet-Noir” series with Pru […]


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