Cries and Whiskers
by Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen Press, 2007. ISBN 978-1-59058-464-4.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 03/26/2008

Fiction: Mystery

Cozy? A mystery with a cat set in Cambridge? I'll curl up on a comfy soft sofa with a sherry, or maybe a cup of tea, or I'll maybe go hang out at a library or coffee house and feel intellectual while I read it.

But that's not the right approach to Theda Karkow, freelance journalist, music critic, hanger out in "clubland," and major cat lover—Musetta, the companion cat and all cats in this tale especially the feral ones. I should have known when I saw the cat and a derelict building on the book cover. Theda is smart, clever and kind and doesn't spend much time in the library, except the one at the Morning Mail where her friend Bunny is the librarian.

In this third of the Cambridge-set series by Clea Simon, Thea gets an early-morning alarm call from her punk friend, purple-haired Violet. (When Violet isn't performing, she runs a cat shelter.) Animal rights activist Gail is the victim in a hit-and-run. Gail had been hunting feral cats in an abandoned bottling plant. Thea takes up the hunt, both for the cats and the killer.

Simon takes her riveted reader through issues of animal rights, taming feral cats (hard if not impossible—I know, I'm taming one named Ginger), urban renewal, and the entire Cambridge music scene, from sleazy, drug-filled backrooms to a jazz concert at Tech. Add a touch of romance (Bill the laid-up homicide cop) and lots of journalist-life hassle, especially deadlines and the raging editor. And then there's the Swann's Way, the band from nowhere whose members manage to involve Thea in a couple of cataplexic incidents.

Cozy? Try jazzed-up. Pour another cup of coffee. Turn up the volume. You won't want to put this one down.

Author Clea Simon knows whereof she speaks. When not writing both fiction and nonfiction, the Harvard graduate works as a journalist and music critic. She's won many awards including the Cat Writers Association President's Award. She lives in Cambridge with her husband and cat, Musetta. Learn more at her website.

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