I’m a huge fan of Clea Simon, and was eagerly awaiting this fourth book in the Dulcie Schwartz mystery series, featuring the Harvard graduate student, along with her new kitten Esme, and the spirit of her departed cat, Mr. Grey. When my review copy of Grey Expectations arrived, I cleared time in my schedule, because I was pretty sure that once I started, I wouldn’t be able to put it down. I was right.
In this book, we find Dulcie in a happy place. She’s settled in with her boyfriend Chris, a computer programmer, and her relationship with her new kitten, Esme, is deepening. Mr. Grey’s spirit is still around, providing his wise, if sometimes cryptic, counsel not just to Dulcie, but also to Esme, and, much to Dulcie’s delight, to Chris. Dulcie is making progress on her thesis about an incomplete gothic novel written by an unknown author in the 18th centruy, The Ravages of Umbria. Dulcie is trying to uncover the identity of this author, and, in the process of her research, at times almost finds herself identifying with the, for her times, free-thinking and courageous woman, to the point where the mysterious author invades Dulcie’s dream.
And then, a phonecall from Dulcie’s friend Tricia disrupts the calm. Tricia claims that the police consider her a suspect in a possible homicide, and then she disappears. While trying to find her friend, Dulcie gets involved in a whirlwind of false identities, stolen ancient books, conspiracies, and murder. In the process, she uncovers some evidence that may put her thesis at risk. Through it all, the cats, both the ghost cat and the real cat, play a part in guiding Dulcie.
Even though the focus of the book is on Dulcie trying to solve the mystery around the stolen book and the murder, there’s a second mystery that is more prominent in this book than in any of the others, and that’s the mystery of the author of the gothic novel. The parallels between Dulcie’s life and the unknown author are woven throughout the story, and they hooked me as much as the cats did.
The passages featuring the cats, are, of course, my favorites. I could particularly relate to Dulcie’s emotions toward Esme. The lively, sometimes bitey, kitten is such a contrast to her beloved Mr. Grey, who was calm and settled. It reminded me of how I felt when I first adopted Allegra as a high-energy seven-month-old kitten, after being used to the quiet, gentle energy of twelve-year-old Amber. Like I did with Allegra, Dulcie realizes that sometimes, it takes a little time for a new love to grow, and following the softening of her heart toward the little kitten throughout the book melted mine.
This is an extremely well-crafted book. Clea’s elegant and almost lyrical prose and the multi-layered plot elevate Grey Expectations from a mere cozy mystery to serious literature. But fear not, all the elements that make a cozy such an enjoyable read are still present as well. The book can be read as a standalone, but I’d encourage you to read the entire series – it’s simply too wonderful to miss.
Clea Simon is the author of the Dulcie Schwartz and Theda Krakow mysteries and the nonfiction The Feline Mystique – On the Mysterious Connection Between Cats and Their Women as well as several other nonfiction books. For more information about Clea, please visit her website or her blog.
Clea Simon has generously offerd one autographed copy of this book to go to one lucky winner. To enter the giveaway, tell me in a comment why you’d like to win this book. For an additional chance to win, tweet about this giveaway or share on Facebook, and post the link in a separate comment. This giveaway ends Friday, April 6 .
This book was sent to me by the author. Receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review.
my review of Clea’s new Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Cats Can’t Shoot
And stay tuned for an interview with Clea’s cat Musetta!