Book covers don’t always reflect a book’s actual content, but in the case of The Ninth Life, the first in Clea Simon’s dark new series, the cover is a perfect reflection of the book’s feel and tone.
Written in the voice of Blackie, a black cat with a mysterious past, and combining elements of fantasy and mystery, The Ninth Life introduces this unusual feline and his human companion, Care, a fifteen-year-old homeless girl. These two vulnerable beings are fending for themselves in the nightmarish urban landscape of an unnamed city. When Care’s mentor, a private investigator, is found dead, Care vows to solve the last case he took on, and she also wants to take over his business. The duo encounters a world of drugs, thieves and murderers, and must cope with a number of dangerous situations.
This book is a departure from Simon’s past cat-centric mysteries. The Ninth Life is much darker and disturbing at times. I had a hard time reading through a few passages when Blackie is abused and treated violently, despite the fact that these sections were important to the plot. Knowing how much Clea Simon loves cats, I appreciated that she took the time to share why she chose to write this book and what writing it was like for her.
What made this book for me was the absolutely wonderful way in which Clea narrates the book in Blackie’s voice. Writing in a cat’s voice is challenging,and few writers do it well. Clea does it masterfully. Blackie is all cat, although he does appear to understand human language. I thoroughly enjoyed the interactions between Blackie and Care, especially Blackie’s frustrations with the limitations of being able to communicate with Care. You can’t help but fall in love with this brave cat, and his equally brave girl.
If you enjoy gritty, hard core mysteries with an element of urban fantasy, you will love this book.