Sunday, January 24, 2021

Magic and Mystery from Clea Simon, in A CAT ON THE CASE

Boston-area author Clea Simon has always excelled at world building.

Some of this in her previous books has evoked the passionate underworld of Boston's music scene, with its drugs, sex, rock and roll, but above all, deeply needed relationships. At other times she's woven complex relationships between humans and their pets, often understood better by the four-footed companions. Her hauntings and witchery have delved into human longing, as well as desperation.

Now, in A CAT ON THE CASE, Simon evokes a layered set of mysteries: a crime that involves a mostly helpless immigrant music student (make that two crimes, as one uses her as a front and the other threatens to sink her into hopeless debt and danger). And the longing of pet owner Becca Colwin to exert magical abilities,which enfolds a mystical confusion of its own, as Becca is sure she's already been able to make something magical take place—which her three cats, savvy and powerful, know darn well was something they achieved, not Becca.

Readers of Simon's "Witch Cats of Cambridge" series (Polis Books) will already know that the cats Clara (the youngest and assigned to protection detail), Laurel, and Harriet have a long and powerful past and are rather arrogantly aware of their own power. Simon's world building includes lives of felines dating back to the awesome Egyptian deity Bast, and the first couple of chapters of A CAT ON THE CASE require close attention to what's going on.

But after that, the book becomes a classic mystery involving a possibly valuable antique violin, thieves at the crystals-and-magic shop Charm and Cherish where Becca works, and a murder next door. Becca's determination, and her sense that the vulnerable Ruby is worth caring about, quickly propel her into chasing down danger and sniffing out the double entrapment that Ruby is too naive to notice.

Becca's old friend (and magic circle member) Maddy isn't convinced.  

"So tell me everything you know. I mean for real, Becca. Not just that you have a feeling about this girl."

"I do, though." Becca paused before continuing. "There's something going on with her, but I don't get any sense of danger from her. More than that, my cats are very calm — they were fine with her and they're fine with the violin."

That's the violin that seems to be the target of international thieves willing to murder in order to possess it. But why?

Good thing Becca has three savvy cats to watch over her and work out the means, motive, and perpetrators, whether in person or in spirit!

Yes, this is a feline-filled cozy, but it's also an intricate work of speculative fiction. Shelve with Boston mysteries, cat tales, female protagonists, and intricate fantasy, all wrapped into an unusual crime-solving exploration of friendship and the paranormal.

PS: Looking for more mystery reviews, from cozy to very dark? Browse the Kingdom Books mysteries review blog here.


Clea Simon said...

Thank you - I am beyond thrilled. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Beth Kanell said...

A pleasure -- well earned!