The cats of fiction

A few true cats have recently captured the attention of readers with their life stories, including Cleo, The Cat Who Mended a Family by Helen Brown, Dewey, The Library Cat by Vicki Myron, Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper, and Making Rounds with Oscar by David Dosa. But this week Book Buzz turns to the cats of fiction for a book list of varied reads for the ailurophile. From poetry to mystery and essay to graphic novel, here’s the cat’s meow.   

Happy reading!

The Black Cat

The Richard Jury Mysteries

By Martha Grimes

Adult Fiction Grimes

The eponymous cat in Grimes’s twenty second installment of mysteries featuring Scotland Yard Superintendent Richard Jury plays a significant, though not central, role in a tale that includes a local pub, talking animals and a moonlighting librarian. The series begins with the 1981 The Man with a Load of Mischief.

Cat Breaking Free

A Joe Grey Mystery

By Shirley Rousseau Murphy

Adult Fiction Murphy

A feral cat, a mauled and very dead motorcyclist and a series of boutique robberies bode ill for Joe’s human companion, Clyde Damen and his feisty new girlfriend and other residents of scenic Molena Point, California. It is up to the incorrigible feline snoops, Joe and buddies, to thwart a gang of thieves from Los Angeles hiding out in the nearby hills. This is number eleven in a series beginning with Cat on the Edge to the latest, Cat Coming Home. 

Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta

By Carole Nelson Douglas

Adult Fiction Douglas

Bringing anthropomorphism to elegant heights is author Carole Douglas whose tomcat detective Midnight Louie began his adventure stories with Catnap in 1992. The series continues to the latest, number twenty-seven, the forthcoming Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta, in which the slinking sleuther tackles the murder of a publisher at the Las Vegas American Booksellers Association convention and involves the kidnapping of bookseller Baker and Taylor’s famous feline corporate mascots.

The Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers

By Lilian Jackson Brown

Adult Fiction Allen

This cozy mystery series beginning with the 1966 The Cat Who Could Read Backwards features Moose County newspaperman James “Qwill” Quilleran and his two Siamese cats who help him solve the latest crime with their extraordinary powers of perception. Colorful characters, both feline and human, dominate the stories. The most recent, and twenty-ninth in the series, is the Cat Who Had 60 Whiskers in which Polly departs for Paris, Koko meets a piano tuner, Qwill writes a play and a mysterious bee sting-related death occurs. Meanwhile Moose County is in an uproar over a string of lucrative inheritances. 

The Hiss of Death:

A Mrs. Murphy Mystery

By Rita Mae Brown and Sneaky Pie Brown

Adult Fiction Brown

After a hospital employee ends up dead, Harry, along with her animal companions Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tucker, must find the murderer, all while Harry deals with her own health crisis. This is the most recent, number nineteen, of the clever and gently humorous series. The novels show a strong sense of place and memorable, if quirky characters. Brown’s non-human characters are often much wiser than their human counterparts. The series begins with the 1990 Wish You Were Here in which Mary Minor Harristeen, postmistress of Crozet, Virginia, joins forces with her willful cat, Mrs. Murphy and her Welsh corgi, Tucker to investigate a series of bizarre postcards sent to the town’s inhabitants that forecast impending death.  

Into the Wild

By Erin Hunter

Young Adult Fantasy Hunter

For generations four clans of wild cats have shared the forest. When their warrior code is threatened by mysterious deaths, a house cat named Rusty may turn out to be the bravest warrior of all. Erin Hunter is the pseudonym for three authors collaborating on anthropomorphic animal series told from the animals’ point of view which are rich in sensory details. The fast-moving and action-packed original Warriors series stars battling feral cats that belong to fiercely loyal clans or fighters. The series features six books beginning with Into the Wild and ending with The Darkest Hour. There are several subsequent book and manga series in this teen favorite about the warrior cats. 

The Rabbi’s Cat

By Joann Sfar

Adult Fiction Wood

Rich with the colors, textures, and flavors of 1930s Algeria’s Jewish community, this award-winning graphic novel brings to life a world now lost in time and place where Jews and Arabs coexisted and peoples it with endearing human characters and a truly unforgettable cat. The cat, belonging to a widowed rabbi and his beautiful daughter, Zlabya eats the family parrot and gains the ability to speak. To his master’s consternation, the cat immediately begins to tell lies, the first being that he didn’t eat the parrot. The rabbi vows to educate him in the ways of the Torah. While the rabbi’s rabbi maintains that a cat can’t be Jewish, the cat, as always, knows better. See also The Rabbi’s Cat 2.

Reserved for the Cat

By Mercedes Lackey

Adult Fiction Lackey

Based loosely on the tale of Pus in Boots, this fantasy takes place in 1920 London. A penniless and desperate young dancer is sure she is going mad when a telepathic cat councils her to impersonate a famous Russian ballerina and achieve the success she’s been dreaming of. The cat, an Elemental Spirit unfortunately also attracts the attention of another more threatening Elemental Spirit and the young dancer must again turn to her furry friend. 

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk

A Modest Bestiary

By David Sedaris

Adult Fiction Sedaris

A collection of animal-themed humorous short stories by memoirist and humorist David Sedaris presents as a modern-day Aesop and confronts racism, self-congratulatory sanctimony, poor excuses for adultery, fad spiritualism among other common societal ills. Several stories involve cats, such as the miserable alcoholic cat who attends AA in Hello Kitty.

The Triumphant Cat

An Anthology of Verse, Prose and Pictures from Ancient and Modern Authors

Edited by Marmaduke Skidmore, Esquire

808.8 Tr

This delightfully illustrated collection of prose and poetry observations amounts to an illustrated “cultural history” of the cat ranging from the ancient Egyptians and ancient Chinese, to T.S. Eliot and Paul Gallico. Inspired by Marmaduke, a marmalade cat belonging to Celia and Ian Skidmore that the author cared for when his owners traveled abroad. Payne inherited a fortune in his teens and after taking his MA at Trinity College, Dublin he set about spending it in Rome, Paris, and Africa. Look also for The Poetical Cat: An Anthology edited by Felicity Bast or Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot.

• Carolyn Larson, head librarian at Lihu‘e Public Library, brings you the buzz on new, popular and good books available at your neighborhood library. Book annotations are culled from online publishers’ descriptions and published reviews.


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