Book Review: Cat Breaking Free by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Joe Grey is a talking cat with superfeline intellect and digestive abilities. Fortunately, he has chosen to use these powers in the service of justice as a civilian investigator for the small California city of Molena Point. Along with his fellow talking cats Dulcie and Kit, they keep solving crimes and assisting the police.
In this volume, Molena Point is invaded by a large organized robbery gang; in what might be a coincidence, a woman named Chichi Barbi moves in next door to Joe’s human partner, Clyde. Joe is immediately suspicious as the woman had conned Clyde out of money when they lived in the big city. In a possibly related subplot, the feral clowder of talking cats Kit used to belong to is back in the area, and it seems that someone’s been setting traps for them.
This series is part of the intersection of mystery and speculative fiction, the “one impossible thing” story. In this case, the impossible thing is talking cats. The origin of these mutants is not explained in this book, and apparently is unknown to the cats themselves–Joe just suddenly realized one day that he could talk. Even with the feral clowder, it’s not known how long the natural lifespan of a talking cat is.
Much of the book is taken up by the human romantic subplot; Clyde’s love interest Ryan, who is not in on the secret, is being harassed by a handsome, suave fellow she knew in the big city, while Chichi is coming on to Clyde in a distressingly obvious way.
Most of the plot points tie together by the end, although there are some red herrings, at least one of which doesn’t get explained.
There are some editing issues, which I find distressing in a book published by HarperCollins. There are a couple of spellchecker typos, but more importantly, there’s a major time discrepancy. It’s a plot point for a couple of chapters that two events are separated by several days, then a chapter later, the first event is described as “yesterday morning” even though the second event is also in the past. It isn’t relevant to solving the mystery, but speaks to characterization.
This is a good read for mystery fans who are also cat lovers, although there is some emotional abuse by one of the villains.
As you might be able to make out on the cover, this is a BookCrossing book, left in a public place to be picked up and read; it will soon be going to someone else.