Cat Crimebusters and Other P.I.’s on Paws, Part 5 – Book Reviews by Fred Patten.
by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
As far as I am concerned, all of the other “cat cozy” series with cat detectives are phonies. The only two that “sort of” qualify are (1) the Magical Cats Mysteries by Sofie Kelly.
Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. February 2011.
Sleight of Paw. September 2011.
Copycat Killing. May 2012.
Cat Trick. February 2013.
Final Catcall. October 2013.
A Midwinter’s Tail. October 2014.
Faux Paw. October 2015.
Kathleen Paulson becomes the young librarian of Mayville Heights, Minnesota, and is adopted by two stray cats whom she brings to the library as “library cats”. They are Owen, a tabby, and Hercules, a fat black-&-white “tuxedo” cat. Kathleen and her detective boyfriend Marcus Gordon invariably become enmeshed in a local murder, and she comes to suspect that Owen & Hercules have mysterious powers that help her solve the mysteries. Owen can apparently turn invisible, and Hercules can “walk through walls” – it’s impossible to keep him shut in or locked up. Plus they regularly “accidently” call her attention to clues, too often to be normal. Maybe the two cats do consciously supernaturally help Kathleen, but they’re still at best only supporting characters.
And (2) the three … Said the Cat Young Adult paperbacks by Louise Munro Foley.
“Thief!” Said the Cat. May 1992.
“Blood!” Said the Cat. July 1992.
“Poison!” Said the Cat. September 1992. (Not online)
This was an aborted (it didn’t sell) Nancy Drew-imitation series for junior-high schoolers starring 14-year-old Kiki Collier, a writer for the Pioneer Junior High student newspaper, The Courier, who solves mysteries with her huge, fluffy orange cat, Pumpkin, tagging along. Pumpkin has a psychic understanding of what Kiki needs, and he provides it. In “Thief! Said the Cat, Kiki is babysitting at the new district attorney’s house and is in the cellar when two thieves break in. The lazy Pumpkin becomes a biting, clawing hellcat and chases them off. Kiki must discover who they were and what they wanted (a hidden will). In “Blood!” Said the Cat, Kiki is an intern at the local Galliard Museum of Fine Arts, and she uncovers a conspiracy to replace valuable paintings with replicas. Pumpkin has a psychic talent for telling which paintings or sculptures are genuine or counterfeits. In “Poison!” Said the Cat, Kiki must solve the who and why behind the almost-fatal food poisoning of some of her classmates. Pumpkin knows in advance which foods are poisoned. But the cat is not a detective as much as he is a psychic protector of Kiki; a purring guardian angel who suddenly becomes a yowling, hissing demon to defend her or warn her of danger.
Foley has gone on to many other juvenile books, but only one series of interest to furry fans: the four Vampire Cat humorous fantasies for children in which fifth-grader Tracey Wilson rescues talking, shape-shifting cat Omar from a village of vampires who want him back. In My Substitute Teacher’s Gone Batty!, The Bird-Brained Fiasco!, The Phoney-Baloney Professor, and The Catnip Cat-Astrophe!, published from 1996 to 1999 by Torkids, Tracey and Omar fight Norman the vegetarian vampire’s attempts to recapture Omar.
There are many other “cat cozy” series, but as far as I can tell, the cats do not really help solve the crimes as much as they are just pets who tag along with the amateur detectives. The biggest fraud that I know of is the Jacques and Cleo, Cat Detectives trilogy by Gilbert Morris.
What the Cat Dragged In. March 2007
The Cat’s Pajamas. March 2007
When the Cat’s Away. July 2007
In this series that apparently also did not sell and was quickly aborted, two very distant relatives who don’t know each other – Kate Forrest and Jacob Novak – are named the heirs of an equally distant and unknown rich relative, under two conditions: they must live in and keep up her large mansion in White Sands, Alabama, a beach resort town on the Gulf coast, and they must care for her many exotic pets. The widowed Kate brings a 12-year-old son and her own two pet cats with her. Kate and Jake naturally fall in love. Jake is an ex-Chicago policeman and amateur author who gets a P.I. license in The Cat’s Pajamas. He does all of the real detection in the books.
Jacques the Ripper, a huge, surly Savannah cat who looks like a miniature black panther and likes to claw people, and Cleo, a pedigreed “ragdoll” who likes to drape herself over people, talk with each other. They’re constantly described as loving Kate and helping her and Jake investigate and solve the crimes. But their idea of helping is limited to bringing Kate the mice, lizards, birds, and whatever else they catch. Any investigating they do is just normal feline prowling about; their presences at the scenes of the crimes is contrived; and any clues they bat out to call attention to are strictly accidental. In What the Cat Dragged In, 12-year-old Jeremy is suspected of murder, and the cats inadvertently help Jake prove who really did it. In The Cat’s Pajamas, a movie company comes to White Sands to shoot a beach movie on location; Jacques and Cleo are written into the script because they’re so photogenic; and when murders occur on the set, they’re on hand as “actors” while P.I. Jake investigates. In When the Cat’s Away, the murders are at an international cat show in White Sands; Cleo is entered in it; and P.I. Jake is hired to solve the crimes. What’s more, Kate is a devoted Christian (as is the author), and all three novels are pulpits for blatant Christian sermons. Cat detectives? Phooey!
The Cat Who … series by Lilian Jackson Braun (The Cat Who Could Read Backwards, The Cat Who Turned On and Off, etc.) is one of the most venerable of all, with 29 novels between 1966 and 2007. But retired newspaperman Jim Qwilleran’s Siamese cat Koko never really helps detect anything. Koko may or may not be a mutation with extra whiskers, but his strange actions such as knocking particular books off a bookshelf are always interpreted by Qwilleran after the crime is solved, as clues that should have exposed the murderer earlier – sometimes before the crime was committed – if he had only known how to interpret them. Koko is never involved with solving the crimes.
Young librarians or bookshop or tea shop owners with pet cats seem to be especially popular. There are the Bookmobile Cat Mystery series by Laurie Cass with bookmobile driver Minnie Hamilton and her rescue cat Eddie, and the Black Cat Bookshop Mystery series by Ali Brandon with young Darla Pettistone inheriting her late aunt’s bookstore and cat Hamlet. In the Second Chance Cat Mystery series by Sofie Ryan, Sarah Grayson’s rescue cat Elvis can detect lies. The Whales and Tails Mystery series by Kathi Daley gives Caitlin Hart both cats and dogs; her dog Max and assorted cats of the Harthaven (Washington) Cat Sanctuary plus the Coffee Cat Books bookstore/cat lounge/coffee bar. The Cats That … series (The Cats That Surfed the Web, The Cats That Chased the Storm, The Cats That Told a Fortune, three others) by Karen Anne Golden puts Katharine “Katz” Kendall and her late aunt’s five cats into murders in Erie, Indiana. The Klepto Cat Mystery Books by Patricia Fry feature veterinarian Savannah Jordan (she marries and becomes Savannah Ivey in later books) and her kleptomaniac cat Ragsdale who keeps dragging home clues. Savannah and her friends’ human love interests are the stars around the small, rural town of Hammond, but Rags has plenty of feline and equine friends. In novel #10, PAWtners in Crime, Rags is joined by a feline partner, Koko (no relation to Lilian Jackson Braun’s Koko).
In the Wonder Cats Mystery fantasy trilogy by Harper Lin (A Hiss-tory of Magic, Pawsitively Dead, Cat-astrophic Spells), Cath Greenstone, her cousin Bea, and her hippie aunt Astrid run the Brew-Ha-Ha café in Wonder Falls, Ontario, next to Niagara Falls. They are all secret witches, and each has a cat (Treacle, Peanut Butter, and Marshmallow) with “the magical ability to communicate with her telepathically”. Except that the cats aren’t magical at all. The modern witches can read all animals’ minds. Their cats are not familiars, just ordinary pet cats. They are too feline to be interested in solving the murders. Cath or one of the others may dredge up an important clue from realizing what their cats saw, but the cats have not consciously detected. In the Black Cat Detective Culinary Cozy Mystery series by S. Y. Robins (The Death Next Door, Gone Missing, Cold Death, all three published in February 2016), young Milly Dupont who runs a “quiet little tea shop” in the tiny village of Wirkster with her black cat Edgar and her employee (and boy friend) Callum Davidson, get involved in murders. In the veddy proper Oxford Tearoom Mysteries by H. Y. Hanna, young Gemma Rose’s quaint Oxford, England tearoom, her tabby cat Muesli, dashing young CID detective Devlin O’Connor, and Gemma’s matchmaking mother become involved in such mysteries as A Scone to Die For and Tea With Milk and Murder.
There are too many other cat cozy mystery series to list them all.