by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
I have written lots of reviews of French talking-animal comic books. It’s time to also cover talking-animals in text in the mystery/detective novel field. Here is a profile of one of the oldest series of all; the Midnight Louie novels by Carole Nelson Douglas. Future articles will present other cat crimebusters, dog detectives (mostly the Chet and Bernie series by Spencer Quinn), and a whole slew of German animal sleuths from Akif Pirinçci’s brutal Felidae novels to Moritz Matthies’ “ultra-cool” novels about meerkat detectives who sneak out of the Berlin Zoo to investigate animal murders.
This is a sort-of milestone in the annals of the cat crimebusters. By that, I mean the feline murder mysteries that have been so popular among mystery fans for the past three decades. And I don’t mean all the “cat cozies” in which an unanthropomorphized pet cat tags along with the human amateur detective while she solves the crime. I mean those in which the cat is the real detective – and usually the narrator – finding the clues, and surreptitiously batting them out for the human amateur detective or the police to find.
The milestone is the almost-conclusion after two and a half decades of Carole Nelson Douglas’ Midnight Louie alphabet series. She has been writing one or two a year in alphabetical order for over twenty-six years. This year, in 2015, she has reached the end of the alphabet with Cat in a Zebra Zoot Suit, published on August 24. Temple Barr is a young publicist in colorful Las Vegas living in a rundown but exotic apartment house. She is “adopted” by Midnight Louie, a stray slightly-overweight black cat (about 20 pounds) who moves in. While Louie detects for the animals, the main crimes are human that Temple has to solve. Louie surreptitiously helps. There are Temple Barr, the Las Vegas publicity agent who is Louie’s apparent owner and unsuspecting cover for his detecting – Max Kinsella and Matt Devine, Temple’s two lovers – Carmen Molina, the hard-as-nails Las Vegas female police detective who gives Temple and Louie a hard time – Electra Lark, Temple’s elderly Circle Ritz apartment-house manager, and Van von Rhine, owner of Vegas’ high-end Crystal Phoenix hotel, Temple’s main client – Louie’s Midnight Investigations, Inc., later expanded into his Vegas Cat Pack assistants including Midnight Louise, his (probable) daughter, and Ma Barker, his mother – and too many to list here. Next year the 28th novel in the series, Cat in an Alphabet Endgame, will wrap it all up. (Though Douglas has promised that Louie will go on to new adventures.)