There are people who can train cats to do tricks, to walk with a leash, to use the toilet and flush afterward. Dominique, the Key West cat man, has a whole show using his specially trained “flying house cats.” He gets them to walk on tightropes and jump through hoops.
After hearing about these feline successes, Don and I tried to train our cats. Three cats back, we adopted a young semi-Siamese named Sylvie. We’d heard that Siamese cats liked to walk with a leash and were easy to train. We bought a Chihuahua leash for her. Sylvie flopped down on the sidewalk like a passive resistor and went limp. We wound up dragging the protesting cat half a block, which caused talk in the neighborhood.
“Be patient,” the text books advised us potential cat trainers. We kept trying to use the leash. Finally clever Sylvie learned to escape its leather confines like a hairy Houdini.
The cats quickly succeeded in training us. They started yowling every morning, and we learned to leap out of bed at seven a.m. and feed them.
It took six cats before Don succeeded in training one. Now my husband regrets his success.
We adopted Harry, a brown-and-black striped tiger, from our local vet. Some idiot had shot Harry’s family. Harry escaped with his life, but he was left with a fear of large, white males, which proved he was a sensible animal. Whenever a big, white guy loomed at our condo door, Harry hid under the couch. If it was a bill collector, I joined Harry.
It took Harry nearly six months and lots of coaxing before he would let Don pet him. After a year, Harry permitted Don to scratch his ears.
Another six months later, we had a breakthrough. At least, we thought so at the time. Harry let Don scratch the base of his tail. Don was thrilled. So was Harry.
The cat would follow Don around and jump up on chairs so Don could scratch his tail. Don thought this was hilarious.
He’d slap a chair seat and say, “Present butt!” Harry would jump up for his tail scratch. He would fold back his ears and look blissfully happy.
Harry started following Don everywhere. If Don took a nap or stretched out on the couch, Harry was there, demanding a scratch. He was polite about it, in a catlike way. He’d give Don a formal forehead bump, which is cat for “hello” or maybe, “wake up, stupid.” We weren’t sure on our cat translations. Then Harry would turn around and present his rear end for a scratch. The cat looked like a brown-and-black watermelon. A very happy watermelon. Don obliged and scratched him.
Harry has become a scratchaholic. If Don lights anywhere for a moment or two, there’s Harry, demanding a butt scratch.
It’s ceased to be funny. Don can’t read a book or fall asleep until Harry gets his butt scratch. Now the cat has started waking up Don in the middle of the night.
“This is kind of kinky,” Don said, as he scratched the cat’s rear end at three in the morning.
“Couldn’t you train the cat to turn on the coffee maker, or dial 911 in case of an emergency?” I asked. “You did pretty good with all those dogs.”
Don has trained the neighborhood pooches to line up at their fences when he passes by on a walk. He says, “Present ear,” and the dogs get their ears scratched. It’s a much more wholesome pastime.
“Why couldn’t you have trained Harry to get his ears scratched?” I asked.
“That’s for dogs,” Don said.
I guess I should be grateful he doesn’t scratch Clydesdales.
Elaine Viets writes two mystery series, The Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series, set in her hometown of St. Louis, and the Florida-based Dead-End Job series. She has won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards for her writing. In Elaine’s lastest release, The Fashion Hound Murders, Mystery shopper Josie Marcus investigates a chain of doggie boutiques and discovers those fashionable pets come at a killer price.
Catsong is a charming and delightful collection of stories about special cats and the impact they had on the author’s life. T.J. Banks shares the stories of the cats that have graced her life, and the immense love, joy and comfort they have brought, each in his or her own individual and special way. There is Alexander Czar-Cat, the magical cat of the author’s childhood. There is Jason, a black-and-white stray whose love and affection accompany Banks through her college years and into her marriage. There are Cricket and Tikvah, and Solstice and Kilah, cats that connect with the author on a soul level. T.J. Banks clearly knows and understands cats, and her appreciation of and love for each individual cat shines through in her sensitive and beautiful prose. By sharing her stories about these cats, the author makes us feel that we actually knew them, and she also shows us how truly special all the feline spirits that come and go from our lives are. For those of us willing to listen with our hearts, cats have so much to teach us. They enrich our lives through their simple, loving presence, bring us joy and entertainment with their endless antics, and provide quiet love and support during our dark days. This collection of stories covers all of these aspects, and more.
It’s impossible to pick one story over another – they’re all wonderful and special in their own way. But for me, the title story, Catsong, touched me most deeply. This is the story of Kilah, the seventeen-year-old tortoiseshell cat who helps her human through personal tragedy and countless animal crises – and whose loving spirit continues to bring comfort even after passing into the non-physical dimension.
This book is a treasure for any cat lover and makes a wonderful holiday gift. The author has a limited number of autographed copies available for sale. E-mail T.J. Banks at [email protected] for more information and to order.
T.J. Banks is the author of Souleiado and Houdini, a novel for young adults that Cleveland Amory has enthusiastically branded a “winner.” Her work has appeared in numberous anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Single Parent’s Soul and A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. She lives with her daughter Marissa and their cats and rabbits in a sometimes peaceable, but always interesting kingdom in Connecticut.
Bookplate Specialis the third in the Booktown mystery series from Berkeley Prime Crime and will be released November 3. The first book, Murder Is Binding, was published in April 2008. The second book, Bookmarked for Death, was a Feb. 2009 release. If you love books, cats and food, you will love this series!
The protagonist of the series, Tricia Miles, owns Haven’t Got a Clue, a mystery book store located in the charming small town of Stoneham, New Hampshire. It’s the kind of town where everybody knows your name. In Bookplate Special, Tricia discovers the body of her former college roommate. Never satisfied with letting the police handle a murder investigation, Tricia launches her own informal investigation to find the killer, and encounters all sorts of trouble. This is a wonderful story with immensely likeable characters, a cat names Miss Marple, and mouth-watering recipes. The author also includes a subplot about a topic that is clearly important to her, and she manages to do so in a way that’s thought-provoking rather than preachy. A thoroughly enjoyable book – be sure to add it to your winter reading list!
You can learn more about Lorna Barrett by visiting her website. You can also find her at her delightful blog Dazed and Confused.
The Complete Guide to Holistic Cat Care is a comprehensive resource for the cat parent interested in natural alternatives for feline health. Co-authored by Celeste Yarnall, Ph.D., the author of Natural Cat Care and Natural Dog Care, and Jean Hofve, DVM, a holistic veterinarian with extensive training in homeopathy and homotoxicology, the book covers topics such as nutrition, natural remedies, and hands-on healing in an easy to understand way without being light on the factual information. The book places particular emphasis on nutrition as preventive medicine. Yarnall, a breeder of Tonkinese championship show cats, bred and raised eleven generations of cats on the basic holistic principles outlined in her books. The foundation of her breeding program is a raw food diet. The chapter on Nutrtition as Preventative Medicine provides a complete and thorough overview of everything a cat owner might want to know about feeding raw the right way.
Other aspects of holistic cat care addressed in the book include natural remedies such as herbs, homeopathy and flower essences, hand-on healing modalities including chiropractic, acupuncture and Reiki, as well as some more esoteric therapies such as Applied Kinesiology, crystal, color and sound healing, and magnetic therapy. All of these modalities are introduced and explained in an easily accessible, yet comprehensive manner. In conclusion, Yarnall offers her outlook on the ever-expanding field of anti-aging health care and how it might impact our cats.
In addition to being chock full of well-researched and well-presented information on holistic cat care, the book is beautifully laid out and illustrated with stunning cat photographs. This guide is a valuable resource for every cat owner interested in holistic health and a beautiful addition to your cat care library.
For more information about Celeste Yarnall and natural nutrition and health care for cats and dogs, please visit Celeste’s website at www.celestialpets.com.
Female friendships are some of the most wonderful, powerful, and sometimes complicated relationships in women’s lives. Have you ever had something you wanted to say to a friend, but couldn’t? Have you ever wished you could go back in time to say something you didn’t? In P.S. What I Didn’t Say, Megan McMorris brings together a collection of unsent letters written by a wide range of female writers to friends both current, past and deceased, covering, in the editor’s words, “BFFs, frenemies, and everything in between.”
From the touching The We of Me by Jacquelyn Mitchard about the kind of friendship that is so intense that it survives even a five year period of silence, to Kristina Wright’s The Last Letter about a friendship with an older woman that took place almost entirely through letters, to McMorris’ own contribution What Would Diane Do about the kind of true friendship that endures, P.S. provides a glimpse into the private thoughts and emotions of the writers. Each reader will, no doubt, find parallels to her own life – remembering the grade school friend who moved across the country, but still remains a vivid memory, or the college pal who has remained a trusted friend despite infrequent contact.
This book will help women better understand some of their own complicated friendships, and perhaps, provide the inspiration to get in touch with long lost, but not forgotten friends. It will definitely make the reader treasure her own friendships, and perhaps serve as a reminder that it’s always better to say what you need to say while you still can, rather than wait until it may be too late. A beautiful compilation, this book should go on every woman’s reading, and gift, list.
Megan McMorris is a freelance writer based in Portland, OR. She is the editor of Women’s Best Friend: Women Writers on Their Dogs and Cat Women: Female Writers on Their Feline Friends, and has written guides to hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Her outdoors column, Misadventures, appears in The Orgeonian. Megan has also written for Real Simple, Glamour, Guiding Light, Prevention, Fitness, SELF, Woman’ s Day, and Shape, among other. For more information about Megan, visit her website.
Some books about animals warm your heart. Others touch your soul. Homer’s Odyssey, subtitled A Fearless Feline Tale, or How I Learned About Love and Life with a Blind Wondercat falls into the second category. This moving, inspirational and often funny story about a blind cat with a huge spirit and an endless capacity for love, joy and a determination to persevere no matter what the obstacles is a wonderful celebration of the bond between a cat and his human and the transformational power of loving an animal.
Homer’s story begins when the stray kitten is brought to Miami veterinarian Dr. Patty Khuly (who wrote the foreword to the book), host of the popular veterinary blog Dolittler, at only three weeks of age. Homer loses both eyes to a severe eye infection, and while nobody would have faulted Dr. Khuly for euthanizing this kitten, she saw something in him that made her determined to save him. When Gwen gets a call from Dr. Khuly asking whether she would come take a look at this kitten, the last thing the author wants is another cat. She already has two, and she’s worried about crossing the line into crazy cat lady territory by adopting another one. But she agrees to take a look – and falls in love.
Homer, the blind kitten who doesn’t know he’s blind, has a giant heart and an indomitable spirit. He quickly adapts to new situations and environments, and turns into a feline daredevil who scales tall bookcases in a single bound and catches flies by jumping five feet into the air. Eventually, Gwen and the three cats move from Miami to New York City (and the story of their move is an adventure that will have you on the edge of your seat with worry and concern for this family of four). Adjusting to city living in a cold climate takes some time, but once again, Homer’s adaptable spirit triumphs. He even survives being trapped with his two feline companions for days after 9/11 in an apartment near the World Trade Center.
But it wasn’t Homer’s physical feats and his ability to adapt to physical limitations that ultimately transformed the author’s life. Homer’s unending capacity for love and joy, no matter what life’s challenges may be, were a daily inspiration for Gwen, and ultimately taught her the most important lesson of all: Love isn’t something you see with your eyes.
It’s rare that a pet memoir is the kind of book you can’t put down – but this one is. Thankfully, I knew at the outset that Home is alive and well, so unlike what happens with so many books in this genre, I didn’t expect to cry while reading this book. Little did I know how the gut-wrenching account of the author’s experience in the days following 9/11 would affect me. Gwen Cooper lived through every cat owners’ nightmare – fearing for the safety and survival of her cats, and being unable to get to them for several days. The moving narrative and emotional impact of this chapter will leave few cat lovers unaffected.
Homer’s Odyssey is a must-read, to quote from the book’s cover, “for anybody who’s ever fallen completely and hopelessly in love with a pet.”
Coming soon on The Conscious Cat: an interview with author Gwen Cooper.
Clea is also a respected journalist whose credits include The New York Times and The Boston Phoenix, and such magazines as American Prospect, Ms., and Salon.com. She used to do a fair amount of music criticism, but now primarily focuses on relationships, feminism, and psychological issues.
Clea grew up in East Meadow, on suburban Long Island, N.Y., and came to Cambridge, Mass., to attend Harvard, from which she graduated in 1983. She’s never left, and now happily cohabits with her husband, Jon S. Garelick, who is also a writer, and their cat Musetta.
As a longtime fan of Clea’s writing, I’m thrilled to welcome her to The Conscious Cat today.
Thank you, Conscious Cat. It’s a pleasure to be here.
Clea, you’re about to launch Shades of Grey, the first in your new Dulcie Schwartz series. Can you tell us a little about the book and the series?
Have you ever lost a pet – and then felt like your cat isn’t really gone? That’s how Shades of Grey opens. Dulcie Schwartz is having a miserable summer. Her graduate studies are going nowhere, her nice roommate has been replaced (temporarily) by a boorish subletter, and, worst of all, she’s had to put her beloved cat, Mr. Grey, to sleep. So when she comes home from her crappy summer job to see a cat who looks just like Mr. Grey sitting on her front stoop, she’s sort of shocked. But then when that cat says to her, “I wouldn’t go inside, if I were you,” she doesn’t know what to make of it. Being Dulcie, she doesn’t really pay attention and goes inside – to find her roommate dead, with her knife in his back, and a whole mess of problems waiting. Perhaps it would be a good time to point out here that Dulcie is studying the Gothic adventure stories of the late 18th Century. She just never expected her own life to become a ghost story…
What made you decide to start a new series, rather than continuing the successful Theda Krakow series?
I actually wrote Shades of Grey while Cries and Whiskers, the third Theda book, was in production. I needed to take a break, I wanted to try something different and … voila! Then my editor at Poisoned Pen Press asked about Theda and I was happy to return to her and write Probable Claws. But soon after that, Shades of Grey sold on the condition that I write a sequel. I’ve just finished Grey Matters, which will be out in December in the UK, by March in the US.
You are a prolific writer – did you always know that you wanted to be a writer?
Always. I’ve always liked telling stories and I wrote those stories down from the first days I could write. It was just a question of figuring out if I could do this for a living.
You’ve written both fiction and nonfiction. Do you prefer one over the other, and if so, why?
These days I much prefer fiction. I find it more fun. But it requires a different kind of effort. Nonfiction, and for me that also includes journalism, is about presenting a truth, or truths. Facts and research. I believe in over-researching, that is, doing enough interviews and research so you start to hear the same stories again and again. I always want multiple confirmations of anything I’m writing about. I want to make sure I have the story right. I’m also very conscious of what a very smart editor once told me: we strive for objectivity, but it doesn’t exist. We all have a bias, a viewpoint, a prejudice. So when I write nonfiction I also want to make sure that I present the options and, when possible, that I’m aware of my own bias or viewpoint. When I can, I try to state who I am as the writer in a piece. Let the reader know, so she or he can make up her or his own mind about how to read what I’ve written.
For fiction, I’ll do some research but it’s different kind of work. It is more important in fiction to make a believable world than an utterly true one. I am reminded of something Barry Unsworth said about writing historical fiction. (He’s a wonderful writer – check out his Sacred Hunger.) Someone asked him about his medieval mystery, Morality Play, specifically about the hand gestures early actors used. How did he find out that particular tidbit, he was asked. He didn’t, he replied. He made it up. It seemed like something actors of that period ought to do, so he had them do it. And it works, because it makes perfect sense in context.
Another thought on the fiction/nonfiction divide: My husband (Jon Garelick, who now writes about jazz and works as an editor at the Boston Phoenix) used to write and teach fiction. When I first started writing fiction, I said, full of glee, “Hey, this is great! I can make shit up!” And he replied, “Yes, but you have to make shit up.” Which about sums it up. You don’t have to dig up facts and figures, but you do have to keep mining your imagination in order to get words on the page.
What does a typical day of writing look like for you?
I make myself write every weekday, Monday through Friday. Basically, I give myself a word count for the day, most days. I like to write at least 1,000 word or 1,500 words a day. That can take from an hour to all day. I wrote Grey Matters on deadline, making myself write 2,000 words a day and my readers think it’s the best thing I have ever written, but that was hard. I’m happier at 1,500 words a day.
What do you love most about being a writer?
The writing. I love my characters and my books. I just love spending time with them.
What do you like least about being a writer?
The waiting. I was tempted to say “the writing,” because when it’s not working, it’s a bear. I’ll grind out 1,000 words of description or dialogue and know I’m going to cut it later. But really, the worst part is waiting to hear from your agent, from editors, from publishers, from critics. If I could just write and then not care, I’d be much, much happier.
The cat in Shades of Grey is a “ghost cat” – how did you come up with the idea for Mr. Grey?
The idea came from two sources: my own experiences after I had to put my much loved cat Cyrus to sleep. I felt like he was still around. I mean, I know rationally that it was just that I was used to him, but it really felt quite strongly that he was still a presence in my life. To the point where I actually believed I saw him, sitting on a stoop a few blocks from my house. I told myself, well, there must be another cat who looks like Cyrus. But I kept going back and I never saw that cat again. And, yes, Cyrus is the model for Mr. Grey: a longhair grey with a face more Siamese than Persian, a quiet and dignified manner, and huge white whiskers.
The other spur came from my fellow authors. We were at the Mystery Lovers’ Book Shop annual shindig in Oakmont, PA, the Festival of Mystery (an incredible daylong bookfest, if you ever get the chance), and we were all talking about what to do next. And one — I think it was Karen E. Olson (author of The Missing Ink) — said, “You should write about a ghost cat.” And that stuck.
Who or what inspires you?
Everything. Random bits of overheard dialogue, things seen out of the corner of my eye. Suggestions made lightly but remembered…
What is one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had at a book signing or event?
That’s a hard one, because so many are so cool. What I particularly like is meeting aspiring writers – and then finding out later, at other events, that they have gotten published too. I’m a huge fan of libraries and independent bookstores. Places like Brookline Booksmith and Harvard Book Store here, M is for Mystery in San Mateo, New York’s Partners and Crime, Baltimore’s Mystery Loves Company… those events are always good. I’m also a member of an international group called the Cat Writers’ Association (www.catwriters.org) and we have our annual conference alongside a big cat show every year, so we always end up signing right by hundreds of show cats. That’s a blast, and between signings, we can go see the kitties. That’s always fun.
What are you reading at the moment?
Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Mantel is a British novelist, possibly my favorite writer. This book, a retelling of the life of Thomas Cromwell, comes out in the US in October but my husband got me a signed copy of the British release as a birthday present. I’m trying to make it last. I sort of read too fast for my own pleasure sometimes. (I’ve been cutting it with other books, most recently Sara Stockbridge’s Grace Hammer, a fun Victorian.)
Thank you so much for this opportunity, Clea, and much success with Shades of Grey!
You can learn more about Clea and her book on her website and on her blog.
I previously reviewed Probable Claws by Clea Simon, which is the fourth in a series. All books feature Boston freelance writer Theda Krakow and her cat Musetta. Since it’s always more fun to read a series from the beginning, I thought I’d provide reviews for the first three books for you.
Mew is for Murder is the first in the series. In addition to a great mystery, which begins when Theda shows up at a local “cat lady’s” home to interview her and finds her dead, and which features suspects ranging from the coffee-bar waitress who helped the murder victim take care of the cats to the victim’s schizophrenic son, Simon also shares her love of Cambridge, the setting of the story, as well as her forays into the Boston music scene. Filled with well-developed and likeable characters, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read that leaves the reader wanting more. Thankfully, there are three more books in this series.
Cattery Row is the second book in the series. In this book, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda’s friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend’s murder, a musician friend of Theda’s is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected?
This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda’s world because of Simon’s excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let’s not forget Musetta, Theda’s feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.
Cries and Whiskersis the third in the series, and it’s the most intense one yet. While Theda is investigating a new designer drug that is threatening musicians, fans and her friends in the growing Boston area music scene, an animal activist is killed by a hit-and-run driver while rescuing feral cats. As Theda and her friend Violet try to rescue the semi-wild cats from being outside in a freezing New England winter, it becomes apparent that the activist’s death was more than just an accident. As Theda begins to investigate, her boyfriend, a homicide detective, is recuperating from a broken leg and not at all thrilled with Theda’s involvement in these investigations. On top of that, she begins to suspect one of her friends, and finds her loyalties tested on all fronts. When her beloved cat Musetta goes missing, Theda risks everything to get her back and to solve the case.
Once again, Simon manages to combine a great mystery with wonderful, multi-dimensional characters. By now, we feel like we know Theda, and yet, we’re always surprised by the twists and turns of both the plot and Theda’s life.
For more information about Clea Simon and her books, visit her website at www.cleasimon.com
I’ve been reading Nora Roberts for decades, and while her books can be somewhat formulaic, as you would expect for the genre, they always provide a wonderful mixture of entertainment, escapism, and a great love story. Who doesn’t like those elements in a book? Over the past few years, her story lines have gotten a bit too “dark” for me, and I skipped several of her more recent releases such as High Noon. I’m also not all that crazy about books about paranormal topics, and she lost me with her vampires and witches trilogies.
Then Black Hillswas released – and I’m a fan again. If the gorgeous cover with the mesmerizing cougar wasn’t enough to grab my attention, the description of the book was: Black Hillsis the story of Lil Chance and Cooper Sullivan, who meet as children when Cooper comes from New York City to spend a summer at his grandparents’ South Dakota. Each year, with Coop’s annual summer visit, their friendship deepens from innocent games to stolen kisses, but there is one shared experience that will forever haunt them: the terrifying discovery of a hiker’s body.
As the years pass, Lil becomes a wildlife biologist and establishes a wildlife sanctuary on her family’s land, while Coop struggles with his father’s demand that he attend law school and join the family firm. Twelve years later, fate reunites them again. Coop recently left his fastpaced life in New York to care for his aging grandparents and the ranch he has come to call home. Meanwhile, strange things are happening at the Chance Wildlife Refuge. Small pranks and acts of destruction escalate into the heartless killing of one of the cougars housed at the refuge, recollections of an unsolved murder in these very hills lead to an investigation and a hunt for a serial killer. Lil and Coop both know the natural dangers that lurk in the wild landscape of the Black Hills. But now they must work together to unearth a killer of twisted and unnatural instincts who has singled them out as prey.
In addition to a well-told and well-crafted story, the addition of the cats was what made me enjoy this book so much – and it even made the serial killer content tolerable for me (I don’t usually read books with that subject matter). Lil rehabilitates wild cats – cougars, lions and tigers, trying to recreate as much of their natural environment as she can so they can live out their lives in a safe environment. One cat in particular, a cougar she has named Baby, is bonded to her to the point of following her back to the refuge when she tries to release him into the wild.
I met Nora Roberts at a book signing in Washington, DC last month, which probably added to my enjoyment of the book. She was an entertaining speaker and answered questions from the audience for over an hour, and was extremely gracious while signing books for the over 800 attendees.
This book was sent to me for review by the publisher. They thought I might enjoy it because I loved The Art of Racing in the Rainby Garth Stein. It’s not a book I might have otherwise picked up, and I enjoyed the opportunity to read it.
Based in part on a true story, Alive Dayis about blind psychiatrist Brenden McCarthy and his guide dog Nelson, a big-hearted and courageous black Lab. It’s also the story of Antwone Carver, a Marine who is injured in Iraq and is struggling with coming to terms with the physical limitations caused by his injury. McCarthy volunteers his services at a veterans’ hospital, is assigned to Carver and attempts to help the young Marine build a new life. Nelson becomes an important contributor to the therapeutic process by his gentle and comforting presence. This is a story about dealing with tragedy and life’s challenges, and it’s told in a straight-forward and uplifting way. While the solutions to the magnitude of the problems at hand may be a bit oversimplified at times, the overall message of the book is positive and inspirational, and dog lovers will enjoy the passages about Nelson.
The author presents a convincing case of the need for better programs for veterans returning home from the war without being preachy or political. However, I would have liked to have seen the bond between Nelson and McCarthy conveyed in greater depth. While McCarthy’s love for and reliance on Nelson is very apparent, the story doesn’t delve deeply enough into the spiritual aspects of the human animal bond for this reviewer’s taste.
The book is a heartwarming and life-affirming testament to how the exuberant spirit and love of a dog can heal wounded hearts.
The first book in the brand new series by Clea Simon, Shades of Grey features Harvard grad student Dulcie Schwartz, who is fascinated by 18th century Gothic novels. Dulcie is not having a good summer. She recently lost her beloved pet cat Mr. Grey, her best friend and room-mate has gone away for the summer, and she has sublet her apartment to an unpleasant business school student. One day, Dulcie comes home from her boring temp job at an insurance agency and is about to enter her apartment when she sees a cat that looks just like her beloved Mr. Grey, and she clearly hears a voice in her head warning her “I wouldn’t go in just now, if I were you.” Is it he spirit of her pet? Dulcie ignores the warning, and finds her room-mate murdered with her own kitchen knife.
This sets up a multi-layered plot in which our heroine deals with murder, someone hacking into computers at the insurance agency she temps at and at Harvard, and research for her thesis on Gothic novels. Throughout all of this, the ghost of her cat continues to appear, offering his cryptic advice. Is it a ghost, or a spirit guide? You’ll have to read this extremely well-crafted and enjoyable mystery to find out for yourself. This book has everything a mystery (and cat) lover could want: a great story, a likeable heroine, a spirit cat, a little bit of romance, exceptional story telling and multi-dimensional secondary characters. I can’t wait for the next book in this series.
For more information about Clea Simon and her other books, visit her website at www.cleasimon.com.