Review: Cat Chase the Moon by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Chase the Moon by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Chase the Moon (Joe Grey #21) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Format: eARC
Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Genres: cozy mystery, mystery
Series: Joe Grey #21
Pages: 288
Published by William Morrow on April 23, 2019
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Feline P. I. Joe Grey and his friends pounce on three investigations that may connect to one larger mystery—including one case that is very personal—in this hair-raising installment in Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s beloved, award-winning series.

Joe Grey and his partner, Dulcie, are frantic when Courtney, their pretty teen-kitten goes missing. Aided by their two- and four-legged friends, they hit the streets of Molina Point in search of their calico girl. Has Joe Grey and Dulcie’s only daughter been lured away by someone and stolen? Is she lying somewhere hurt, or worse?

Courtney has no idea that everyone is desperately looking for her. Locked in an upstairs apartment above the local antiques shop, she’s enjoying her first solo adventure. When she first met Ulrich Seaver, the shop’s owner, Courtney was frightened. But the human has coddled and pampered her, winning her trust. Sheltered by her parents, her brothers, and her kind human companions, the innocent Courtney is unaware of how deceptive strangers can be. She doesn’t know that Ulrich is hiding a dangerous secret that could threaten her and everyone in this charming California coastal village.

With his focus on finding Courtney, Joe Grey has neglected his detective work with the Molina Point Police Department. Before his daughter disappeared, Joe found a viciously beaten woman lying near the beach. Now the police investigation has stalled, and the clever feline worries his human colleagues may have missed a vital clue. Joe is also concerned about a family of newcomers whose domestic battles are disturbing the town’s tranquility. Loud and abrasive, the Luthers’ angry arguing, shouting, and swearing in the early hours of the night have neighbors on edge and the cops on alert. One of the couple’s late-night shouting matches masked the sounds of a burglary, and now a criminal is on the loose.

Though the crimes are as crisscrossed as the strands of a ball of yarn, Joe Grey’s cat senses tell him they may somehow be linked. It’s up to the fleet-footed feline and his crime-solving coterie to untangle the mysteries before it’s too late.

My Review:

There is a sadness that permeates this tale  from the very beginning. While in the end good triumphs and evil gets its just desserts, the ending is bittersweet and something about that feels like it’s woven throughout the entire story.

It’s that all of the mysteries – which do, of course, get solved in the end – all have their roots in something not merely awful but also heartbreaking – and they all connect up at the end into one giant ball of wrong that brings a whole lot of grief in its wake – as well as the beginning of healing. And more adventure.

The story begins when a wandering Joe Grey discovers a half-dead woman half-buried in a shallow grave. He breaks into a nearby cottage, and the Molena Point PD receives a phone call from their favorite “snitch” letting them know where to get the body before it becomes a dead body.

As bad as that sounds, we don’t yet know (and neither does Joe Grey) just how that poor woman’s story is going to tangle into the others.

The family that has moved in across the street from Joe Grey’s humans, Clyde and Ryan, does not put the fun in dysfunctional. It’s more like the Luther family is one spark away from taking their regular domestic arguments over the line into the kind of domestic situation that gives police officers everywhere nightmares.

There’s plenty of sadness to be found in that mess, as the adults are at best neglectful and at worst borderline abusive of the pre-teen girl that they have dragged away from her beloved grandfather and equally cherished horse, leaving all three, the girl, the horse, and the grandfather in emotional distress.

A grandfather who not only misses his granddaughter, but one who has put the puzzle pieces together to figure out that his sons and his daughter-in-law are the ones behind the rash of robberies currently in progress in and around Molena Point.

His family is causing no end of trouble for everyone in town, but they are still his family. And he fears, rightly or wrongly, that getting them all locked up will see his granddaughter lost to him in the bowels of family services hell.

Just as it seems that nothing in town is going right, tragedy strikes directly at the heart of Joe Grey’s family when his daughter, the beautiful if occasionally silly half-grown kit Courtney, is kidnapped (catnapped?) by someone who promises her a life at the center of worshipful crowds IF she is willing to live that pampered life in a gilded cage.

Joe is frantic at the loss of Courtney, heartsore at the plight of Mindy, and worried at the situation of the woman he rescued. When it all comes together, it also falls apart. With deadly results.

Escape Rating B: With a cozy series like Joe Grey’s, the reader comes to expect a lighthearted tone to even some of the darkest investigations. And much of this series is pretty light and fluffy – as fluffy as the cats’ fur.

But this entry isn’t the least bit fluffy. It also ends on more of a fantasy note than has been seen in this series in a while, in spite of the series origins in the author’s contemporary fantasy novel The Catswold Portal. The speaking cats all have their origins in that realm beyond the portal, and it’s time again for one of them to make the journey into that Netherworld.

But not before we all work our way through everything currently wrong in Molena Point.

So much is wrapped up in the dysfunction of the Luther family. Zebulon doesn’t seem like a bad sort, so one has to wonder what warped all of his kids – but his progeny are all seriously bad. That he doesn’t want to turn in his own kids while still needing to turn in his own kids is a dilemma that no parent wants to face no matter how criminal those kids turn out to be as adults. That he turns his depression over his granddaughter being forced to move out into a determination to discover just how wrong his sons have gone leads to nowhere but grief for all concerned.

It’s a sad situation that permeates the story. Readers will find themselves wondering why, when every adult for miles around knows that young Mindy is being neglected if not abused, no one can manage to rescue her. In the end, she has to rescue herself and her grandfather. And she’s not even a teenager yet!

The situation with Courtney felt a bit odd. It seemed like a very weird tangent of the main case, because her kidnappers have catnapped her not because they know she can talk, but because she resembles a lot of historical portraits of magical cats and they think they can wrap an expensive traveling exhibit around her and the art works. This seems more fantastical to me than the speaking cats. YMMV.

There are also a couple of serious notes among Joe Grey’s circle that add to the atmosphere. Joe Grey himself, with his feline instincts and human intelligence, seems to have more and deeper questions about who and what he is and what it all means as the series goes on. His attitude is maturing in ways that make him question the meaning of it all – and that scare him, if he would admit to being scared – out of at least a couple of his nine lives.

The other thing I’m wondering about as a reader is the dilemma faced by Charlie Harper, the police chief’s wife. Charlie knows about the cats, her husband does not, in spite of the number of incredibly excellent tips the police have received from their elusive snitches. Max is suspicious of Joe Grey in particular, and Charlie is lying to her spouse. That’s a situation I expect to come to a nasty head in some future book in the series.

But speaking of future books, I love this series, and always look forward to my next trip to Molena Point for more adventures with Joe Grey, Dulcie and their clowder of speaking cats. This particular book was a bit darker than I expected, but I still enjoyed checking in with the gang and finding out how everyone is doing.

I’ll be back again next year to see how they’re all getting on, and whether the MPPD has figured out the identity of their favorite snitches yet!

Review: Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Shining Bright by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Shining Bright (Joe Grey #20) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, large print, ebook, audiobook
Series: Joe Grey #20
Pages: 304
Published by William Morrow on August 15th 2017
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The stakes are higher and more personal than ever for feline investigator Joe Grey when death comes to his beloved coastal California town in this twentieth installment of the enchanting cat mystery series.
While new father Joe Grey is overjoyed to teach his three young kittens about the world, he misses his cop work — secretly helping solve crimes alongside his human friends at Molena Point P. D. But when beautician Barbara Conley and one of her customers are found dead in the salon, Joe makes an exception, he heads for the crime scene. He has no idea that the kittens are following him, or how they will complicate the investigation.
But this is not the only danger to the kittens. A stranger is lurking around the home of Joe’s tabby lady, Dulcie, where the kittens were born. Both parents’ backs are up and their claws out, ready to protect their babies and to protect Wilma Getz, Dulcie’s human housemate.
As the death of the beautician becomes entangled with a gang of thieves working the village, Joe, Dulcie, Kit and Pan are all into the investigation; and they are led to unexpected connections, to the building of the new cat shelter and to a neighbor who becomes suddenly an unexpected part of the tangle.
Joe Grey fans will relish this latest installment following their favorite feline detective and his growing group of friends.

My Review:

There are two threads in Cat Shining Bright. One is indeed a bright shiny thread, and the other is dark and twisted. A fairly fitting combination for this series.

The bright and shining thread revolves around talking feline detective Joe Grey, his tabby lady Dulcie, and their three kittens, born at the very beginning of the book (also at the very end of the previous book, Cat Shout for Joy.

Joe Grey, Dulcie, and their feline friends Kit and Pan are talking cats with human-level intelligence. Also with human-level emotions, maturity and conflicts. They walk a very fine line between feline instincts and human complications.

As for why these particular cats, or for that matter the feral clowder of cats that congregate at the old Pamillon Estate, all have the capacity for human speech, no one knows. Which brings an air of suspense to the birth of Joe Grey and Dulcie’s kittens. Everyone, both human and feline, hopes that they will be speaking cats like their parents, but there is no certainty until they open their little mouths and something comes out besides “meow”.

Because cats mature relatively quickly, a big part of this story encapsulates all the joys and trepidations of parenthood into a brief four-month period, as the three kittens, Buffin, Striker and Courtney grow from blind, mewling fluffballs to young adults ready to strike out on their own.

While Joe Grey worries about his new family, and Dulcie is both contented and stir-crazy hovering over the kittens during their early months, a gang of sophisticated car thieves preys on Molena Point and the neighboring small towns along the California Coast.

Their pattern is insidious. They strike a town, and for two or three days steal as many late-model cars as they can, while trashing all the cars they can’t steal and robbing the trashed cars of any valuables. After a two or three day rampage, they move to the next town, and the one after that. A few weeks later they return and start all over again. And even though the police manage to arrest a few members of the gang each time, the gang itself seems to continue unimpaired.

While Dulcie is cooped up with the kittens, Joe Grey, Kit and Pan do their best to help the police track the gang, at least whenever they hit Molena Point. Meanwhile, Dulcie’s human friend Wilma is threatened with a problem of her own, one that puts Dulcie, the kittens and possibly all the speaking cats in grave danger.

It’s not until Joe Grey and the police are able to connect ALL the dots that both cases can come to their proper conclusion. And unfortunately, not until after grand theft auto escalates to murder most foul.

Escape Rating B: I love this series, and I really enjoyed my visit to Molena Point to see both the cats and the humans are doing. As Cat Shining Bright is the 20th book in the series, and I’ve read them all (including the semi-sorta-prequel The Catswold Portal) I feel like these two and four-legged people are all friends and I’m always glad to visit and see what everyone is up to.

If the idea of a story featuring a sentient (and often smart-alecky) cat sounds like catnip to you, start with Joe Grey’s first adventure, Cat on the Edge. A lot of what makes Cat Shining Bright work for fans is the emotional investment, and that just takes time to develop. You could probably start anywhere in the earlier books, but the last four rely on previous knowledge and involvement with the series to really come together.

As much as I enjoyed Cat Shining Bright, it felt like both threads of the story were a bit blinded by that shining brightness.. Your mileage may vary.

On the mystery side of the equation, it doesn’t feel quite so much like Joe Grey and the Molena Point PD solve the case as that the solution falls into their laps (at least for those of the two-legged persuasion who actually HAVE laps, that it). The criminals were fairly ingenious in their methods, the cats were distracted, and the humans just couldn’t catch a break. At least not until everything broke all at once.

And I’m not sure we ever got the full story on Wilma’s problem. It ended, but for this reader it felt like some of the whys and wherefores were missing.

The feline side of the equation had a lot more bright spots. Listening in on Joe Grey’s thought processes as he deals with fatherhood and watches the kittens grow up in what to humans would be accelerated time works well. We feel for his dilemma. Joe Grey is a warrior and a protector. He wants to protect his family, his humans and his town, and those drives come into conflict. He also loves his kittens but recognizes that he has to not merely let them, but actually help them, grow up. And he’s “human” enough not to want to.

The fates and futures of the kittens are tied up in prophecies made the wise old cat Misto near his end, during Cat Shout for Joy. Misto’s wisdom and the kittens various powers are tied in with the feral speaking cats at the old Pamillon Estate, with the ancient past of the speaking cats, and with the events of The Catsworld Portal and an earlier book in Joe Grey’s series, Cat Bearing Gifts. It looks like little Courtney is going to be the cat that connects that particular set of dots, so there’s a lot left hanging.

One final note about the human side of the story. One of the issues for the humans in this story is what to do about the secret that they are the caretakers for. There is a small circle of humans that knows all about the cats’ talents, including Joe Grey’s people, Clyde and his wife Ryan, Dulcie’s human, Wilma, and Kit and Pan’s human family, the Greenlaws. The vet John Firetti also knows, which is both convenient for the cats and necessary for parts of this particular story. As their humans have found life companions, the circle of people in on this dangerous secret has slowly widened. That’s what happens here, as the speaking ferals take it upon themselves to let Scott Flannery in on their secret so their friend Kate can have her happily ever after. Kate was right that it would be impossible to have a good marriage with a lie that big at its heart.

Which begs the question, what about Charlie and Max? Charlie knows the secret, and has known for a long time. But her husband Max does not know. Max is the Chief of the Molena Point Police Department, and everyone is afraid that if Max discovers that his best snitches are Joe Grey, Dulcie and Kit, that he will stop letting them help him, which would certainly contribute to a rise in the Molena Point crime rate. But how long can this go on?

Hopefully we’ll find out in one of Joe Grey’s future adventures, hopefully sometime next year.

Review: Cat Shout for Joy by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Shout for Joy by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Shout for Joy (Joe Grey #19) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Series: Joe Grey #19
Pages: 336
Published by William Morrow on February 23rd 2016
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

Awaiting the birth of his first kittens, feline P. I. Joe Grey, his companion Dulcie, and their furry sleuthing pals must unmask a killer preying on some of the most vulnerable citizens in the charming California coastal community of Molena Point.
For Joe Grey and Dulcie, life is a bittersweet mix of endings and beginnings. While they joyfully await their first litter, they are also sad for their friend, the old yellow cat Misto, whose time on earth is drawing to an end. But Misto tells them an exciting future awaits: among the litter will be a little calico returned from the distant past who will be born with the same ancient markings, and the adventurous spirit of Joe Grey.
While the proud parents await the birth of their babies, their humans have their hands full with projects of their own. Kate Osborne has bought the old Pamillon estate and Ryan Flannery is building a new cat shelter as part of their volunteer rescue project. The criminals are busy, too. The Molena Point PD has stepped up patrols to apprehend a mugger attacking the local elderly. The case becomes a homicide when one of the victims dies, leaving everyone in the town—including Joe and Grey and his furry sleuthing companions—on edge, just when the kittens are about to arrive. When Dulcie gives birth, her little calico is just as Misto predicted, as if she has come back to the world from mythic ancient times.
But the celebrations will have to wait. A murderer is on the loose—and neither young nor old is safe until the culprit is found.

My Review:

I think the art on the cover of this entry in the Joe Grey series is intended to represent Dulcie and Joe Grey’s impending kittens. The calico is Courtney, the white cat is Buffin and the dark one is Striker.

Of course I could be wrong about the picture, but I’m right about the kittens. The joy in this book is that Dulcie is expecting, and part of the story is Joe Grey’s, and everyone else’s, reaction to Dulcie’s impending motherhood.

No one except the old cat Misto is certain whether the new kittens will be speaking cats like both their parents. Joe Grey is uncertain about which instincts will rule him, his intelligence or his feline instincts. He is more than smart enough to know that whatever happens, the kittens bring change.

This is also a story where one door closes, and another door opens. As Dulcie enters her last days of pregnancy, the old seer cat Misto breathes his last. All the humans and all the speaking cats love the old tom, and he and his sometimes otherworldly wisdom will be missed.

And in the midst of all of this emotional upheaval, Joe Grey, and Max Harper, the police chief, have a case. At first, it seems like someone is targeting the frail and elderly in Molena Point, for “shits and giggles”. At first no one is harmed and nothing is stolen. But a series of elderly residents are attacked from behind and knocked to the ground while their assailant runs away in glee.

But the attacks are on the frail, and as the list of “prank” victims rises, so does the accidental death toll. Until one of Ryan’s young assistants is shot on a job site, and it’s suddenly clear that whatever is going on, there is someone out there masking a killing spree with a series a nasty muggings.

Partly because he needs to distract himself from all of the emotional upheaval, and partly because he can never resist a good mystery or the opportunity to put away a bad person, feline detective Joe Grey puts himself into the thick of the investigation, sniffing out important clues and pretending to be an innocent kitty as he listens in to evil plots and evil people who plan to escape their consequences.

It is Joe who provides the vital links between the series of muggings and a heinous San Francisco crime, but it’s a force of nature that delivers the baddies to their just rewards.

Escape Rating B+
: The fun in this series is watching the cats figure out ways to both investigate the crimes and to give the police the evidence they need without revealing themselves. In this age of caller ID and instant tracking of everything everywhere, concealing their identities is an ever increasing challenge.

And they know they must conceal themselves. Not only would revealing themselves to the police endanger any evidence they provide, but there is always a risk that someone will discover who and what they are and want to take them away for experimentation. The more people who know their secret, the greater the risk.

In this entry in the series, it’s the emotional issues that hold the forefront, and the case is often in the background. This book represents huge changes for the characters. Joe Grey and Dulcie now have kittens to train. While they are proud of their new family, the kittens also increase the risk. How does one teach an intelligent, curious and playful baby that it is not safe to talk or burble in front of the humans? Joe Grey and Dulcie discovered their voices in adulthood, they don’t know what it is like to raise speaking kittens. Assuming that they will have speaking kittens, which is not certain to anyone but old Misto.

At the same time, the passing of Misto is sad and beautiful. As is so often the case, Misto is ready to go, but his loved ones are far from ready to let the wise old cat leave. Readers who have experienced the loss of a beloved companion animal will need lots of tissues to get through his passing. Just thinking about this part of the story gets me in the feels.

The mcat on the edge by shirley rousseau murphyystery takes a back burner in this entry in the series. As we discover, the killers and their rationale are both more than a bit nuts. Also, one of them is so completely unlikeable that readers will find themselves hoping she is guilty of something from the very beginning, just so she gets what’s coming to her. And that’s well before we think she’s guilty of anything beyond being a bitch. The ending of the mystery occurs offstage, and loses a bit of its cathartic value at being reported second-hand.

From the moment in the first book in this series, Cat On the Edge, when Joe Grey uses his new-found voice to order delivery from his favorite deli and charges it to his human, the big grey tom snagged a piece of my heart in his claws, and he hasn’t let go yet.I hope that there will be a 20th book in this marvelous series, and soon. I enjoy my visits to Molena Point, and I can’t wait to see what trouble the kittens will get themselves, and their parents, and their humans, into next!

Review: Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Bearing Gifts (Joe Grey, #18) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Series: Joe Grey #18
Pages: 320
Published by Avon on August 27th 2013
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

In this latest entry in Shirley Rousseau Murphy's award-winning series, feline P.I. Joe Grey and his four-legged cohorts are plunged into a nightmarish mystery.
On the way home from visiting their friend Kate Osborne, tortoiseshell Kit and her elderly housemates, Lucinda and Pedric Greenlaw, are hurt in a terrible car crash. The accident is terrifying enough, but then two dangerous men steal the Greenlaws' Town Car, making off with a secret hoard of jewels and gold—a gift bestowed from Kate's newfound treasure. A badly shaken Kit hides from hungry coyotes in the forested hills above the highway, waiting for Joe, Pan, and their human companions, Ryan and Clyde Damen, to rescue her.
Back home in Molena Point, yellow tomcat Misto, discovering a faded photograph of a child living fifty years ago, becomes lost in his memories of that past century—while Joe Grey and his tabby lady prowl an abandoned stone cottage where they've discovered two men hiding. The cats smell mildewed money and soon smell human blood, too. Though the cats know more than the thieves about the unique items stolen, their investigation is still in trouble as they claw their way to justice.

My Review:

cat on the edge by shirley rousseau murphyUsually I would say that anyone who likes feline sleuths will not just love Joe Grey, but could start anywhere in his series. Although the whole thing is so much fun that starting with Cat on the Edge makes for a lovely bunch of binge reading.

However, while I definitely enjoyed this entry in the series, I don’t think it is a good place to start. Too much of the action in this one is dependent on events in the past, and on people who have been introduced in previous books. Also, unusually for the series, the focus is very much on the humans in this one. The cats take a back seat (sometimes literally) as crisis after crisis strikes their human families, and everyone rallies round to protect the most vulnerable and find the guilty parties.

Many of the events in Cat Bearing Gifts were set up in Cat Telling Tales (reviewed here). An acquaintance of Ryan’s from art school barges into Molena Point demanding free room and board for herself and her two daughters based on a short and not all that friendly relationship from several years back. Ryan packs Debbie and her two girls off to one of the houses that she and Clyde are rehabbing. While Ryan knows that Debbie won’t lift a finger for upkeep on the rent-free house, everyone involved feels sorry for Debbie’s younger daughter Tessa, who is bullied by her sister and her mother nearly to the point of abuse. Tessa is being watched out for by Pan, one of the intelligent, talking cats, and everyone is trying to find a better solution for her than either her mother or Child Protective Services.

cat telling tales by shirley rousseau murphyDebbie’s mother Sammie was found murdered underneath her own house in Cat Telling Tales, but Sammie left her little bungalow to her friend Emmylou. Emmylou and Sammie were two of a kind, tough older women who lived alone and independently and took care of themselves and kept themselves mostly to themselves.

But Sammie’s brother Byerly wanders back to Molena Point several months after Sammie’s death. Byerly calls himself a hobo. He’s a wandering vagrant who has always touched base with his sister but never returned home to live. He’s also easily influenced and manipulated, and he returns to Molena Point with his ex-con friend Vic. With Sammie dead, Byerly and Vic break into a neglected cabin on the property and begin a mini-crime spree.

Vic also fences the stolen goods that Debbie shoplifts.

But the mini-crime spree turns maxi when Vic and Byerly cause a hit and run accident on the road from San Francisco back to Molena Point. They wreck their old truck, total a semi, and drive Pedric and Lucinda Greenlaw off the road. Vic beats up Pedric and Lucinda, and steals their car.

catswold portal by shirley rousseau murphyAnd that’s where the case really begins. Because little Kit is a witness to the original crime, and wants to make sure Vic gets his just desserts the minute she is rescued. And because the Greenlaws’ car is concealing all the mysterious, magical and valuable treasures that their friend Kate brought back from the dying world on the other side of The Catswold Portal.

A lot happens in this story, and at first it seems almost all bad. While Vic and Byerly thankfully don’t have the tools to discover the treasures concealed in the doors of the Greenlaws’ Lincoln Town Car, Vic has more than enough ambition (although not much sense) to take his possession of the big car and its keys and turn them into an invasion of the Greenlaws’ home as well as license to commit even more crimes as he hides the car all over Molena Point and tries to plot his way out of the town and his life as a hobo.

But the first thing he has to do is get rid of his injured partner Byerly. And the second thing he has to do is get one last score out of the disgusting Debbie. And last but certainly not least, Vic has to find a way to dodge the pursuit of all of the cats who are suddenly following him everywhere in town.

In the end, no one ever manages to get the better of Joe Grey, Dulcie, Misto, Pan and especially, Kit.

Escape Rating B+: Cat Bearing Gifts is quite a bit darker than many of the stories in this series. It is sad and scary to see the Greenlaws, who are fit and feisty but definitely in their 80s, brought down, even temporarily, by a nasty piece of work like Vic. There’s a certain amount of fear on the reader’s part, and definitely on Kit’s, that some of the damage may not be recoverable, or may cause lasting infirmities.

Kit is certainly forced to acknowledge that her chosen humans are elderly and that she will lose them someday in the foreseeable future, even if that day is not today. Kit discovers that one of the flaws of having human intelligence is that it means a little cat is able to see the awful stuff that’s coming. She is not happy about it, and neither are we.

Because Pedric and Lucinda are in the hospital recovering for a lot of this book, the humans are rightly taken up with that crisis. Everyone rallies round, but everyone is also too busy to pay attention to what the cats are doing. And the cats themselves are naturally distracted. They all care for the Greenlaws, and are worried. There’s also a certain amount of necessary deception on the part of both the cats and the humans to sneak Kit into the Greenlaws’ hospital beds, very much against medical orders.

So everyone is distracted and no one has the time or the energy to get together and compare notes about the strange doings the cats witness surrounding Vic, Byerly, Emmylou’s house and Debbie’s shoplifting. Everyone knows a piece of the puzzle, but there is no opportunity to put the pieces together.

While this was an interesting way for the plot to take care of what sometimes seems like feline omniscience, all the events that they watch are very sad and go on quite a while. The reader will want Debbie to get her comeuppance long before it finally does. And as is often the case where the detectives are very scattered, more than a few bad deeds occur because the puzzle pieces just don’t come together in time.

As a long-time reader of this series, I was glad to see the pieces finally connected between The Catswold Portal and Joe Grey. As someone who is fascinated by the relationship among the cats, it was really interesting to see the argument between Kit and Pan. While it is obvious that they are mates, they feel both in the human and the cat sense. Their argument about goals and purposes and futures was very human, but the motivation behind it was very cat. As was the resolution.

cat shout for joy by shirley rousseau murphyI’m looking forward to a happier story in this series in the next book, Cat Shout for Joy. Joe Grey and Dulcie are having kittens!

Review: Cat Telling Tales by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Review: Cat Telling Tales by Shirley Rousseau MurphyCat Telling Tales (Joe Grey #17) by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Series: Joe Grey #17
Pages: 373
Published by William Morrow on November 22nd 2011
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's Website

Even the bright seaside village of Molena Point has been hit hard by the economic downturn, bringing a rash of foreclosures in which many residents are abandoning their family pets. While feline P. I. Joe Grey's human friends join together to care for the starving cats, a fire leaves a twelve-year-old boy homeless. The body of his alcoholic guardian is discovered in the smoldering ruins, causing Joe to wonder if escape was really impossible for the elderly woman or if something more sinisteroccurred.
Meanwhile, Debbie Kraft descends uninvited on the Damens' home with her two children, claiming that her ex-husband has left her with no money and nowhere else to go. But when Joe learns that the victim of the fire was Debbie's estranged mother and that Debbie is not broke at all but carrying plenty of cash, his fur is on end with suspicion.
As Debbie's abandoned tomcat follows her all the way down the coast from Oregon with his own clues to add to the mix, Joe learns that Debbie's Realtor ex-husband may be involved in a number of intricate real estate scams. Furthermore, his sales partner may be missing, and while Joe and his pals prowl through the dead woman's house, they discover that her reclusive neighbor has disappeared as well.
But it's not until Debbie's tomcat arrives that Joe and his feline detective pals find the biggest clue of all: a grave that the cops have missed. And as the pieces of the puzzle begin to come together, tortoiseshell Kit sees her own dreams coming true in the handsome new cat with whom she might share her life's adventures.

My Review:

catswold portal by shirley rousseau murphyOnce upon a time (1992) there was an epic fantasy titled The Catswold Portal, written by Shirley Rousseau Murphy. I remember it as being a lovely little story, all the better for the possibility that some cats could switch between human form and feline form, and that some cats could have human speech and human intelligence.

While there is no direct link, at least so far, it is pretty clear that at least some of the ideas from The Catswold Portal found their way into the author’s Joe Grey mystery series. Because Joe Grey and his feline friends Dulcie, Kit and now Misto and Pan, all have human-level intelligence. Old Misto also tells fabulous tales of times long ago, and may possibly link back to Portal at some point.

But in the meantime we have a marvelous small-town mystery series where the best detectives in the town of Molena Point are Joe Grey and Dulcie. Joe Grey lives with Clyde Damen and his new wife Ryan Flannery, and Dulcie lives with Wilda, former parole officer and current librarian. Kit lives with a slightly fey older couple, the Greenlaws. Misto has found a home with the town vet, John Firetti. All of their humans know that the cats are much more than they appear. Joe Grey’s very first adventure, where he discovers his newfound talents, is in the marvelous Cat on the Edge.

When Joe Grey started ordering deliveries from the local deli and charging them to his housemate, the truth was bound to come out.

But Joe Grey, along with the rest of the increasing number of hyper-intelligent felines, have found a way to put their innate and insatiable curiosity to good use. They help the local police department solve crimes. The cats phone in reports to 911, providing information that they have gathered. Sometimes they get their info by sitting under a table and looking like they are sleeping, and other times they have to break and enter, or even dig for a vital clue.

In this 17th entry in the series, we find the feline private investigators attempting to unknot what at first seems like a series of unrelated incidents. A fire kills an alcoholic old woman. The old woman’s daughter returns to Molena Point, supposedly destitute, with two children and a suspicious story about her ex-husband. Said ex-husband’s business partner seems to be missing, as does the best friend of an older woman down on her luck and living in her car.

And nearly everyone in this strange chain of events is missing a cat, or has abandoned a cat, or both. And it’s the cats who figure out how all these missing persons and their crimes tie together, from discovering that the destitute woman is carrying wads of cash to finding the two missing women buried under a decrepit house. Even though they are all afraid that they are leaving too many clues behind about their collective identity as the police department’s two best and most mysterious snitches, their curiosity won’t let them rest until justice is finally done.

Escape Rating A-: I picked this up after attempting to read a book so bad that I still want brain bleach days later. I knew that Joe Grey and his pals would be an antidote for the reading that ailed me, and they certainly were.

The Joe Grey series combines the joys of a small town mystery series with the unique aspect that the private detectives are really cats. This is not like the late Lilian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series, where Qwill believes that Koko and occasionally Yum Yum are pointing out clues to him. Whatever Qwill thinks Koko is telling him, it is always Qwill who solves the crime.

Joe Grey, along with his friends Dulcie, Kit, Misto and Misto’s son Pan, are the detectives. One of the fun things about this series is that while the cats have human intelligence and speech, they still seem like cats. Joe Grey in particular speaks the things that we think our cats are thinking. His attitude’s feel like a cat’s attitudes – he loves his comfort and his crab salad, and thinks that humans talk too much around the things they are really thinking, and don’t say the things they really should say. Joe Grey also has the occasional existential crisis, he can’t help but use the gift he’s been given, and yet he worries about the way it has changed him and his friends.

Dulcie has learned how to use computers from her librarian housemate, and has taken up writing poetry. She loves who she is and doesn’t worry about who she used to be.

But they all worry about getting caught. Seeing a cat talking on the telephone would blow most human’s minds, and would certainly blow the cats’ collective cover. Their need to figure out a way to tell the police what is really going on and explain how the key evidence was found, especially when it is in a place that no human could find it, often takes up some of the mental powers.

Like all small town mystery series, part of the fun is in seeing how all of our friends are doing over the books. When we first met Joe Grey and his human housemate Clyde, Clyde was a bachelor who occasionally got himself involved with the wrong woman. In this book, Clyde and Ryan are celebrating their first wedding anniversary, if Joe Grey can ever manage to tie up the string of crimes that keep sending the town into crisis after crisis.

While the cats do solve the crimes and the mysteries, this particular story, set in the midst of the recent recession, has a lot to say about the human costs of the real estate crash, not just the criminal scam that is the center of the case, but also the way that so many families, when they lost everything, either abandoned or were forced to leave behind their pets, especially cats, as they moved into shelters or apartments that would not take pets. Those stories are heartbreaking, but the little town of Molena Point is doing the best it can for all its residents, including their stray cats.

Who knows? One of them might be the next Joe Grey!