Murphy's Joe Grey books are considered cozies-after all, some of the main characters are talking cats! But as I was reading Cat Pay the Devil, it struck me, and not for the first time with this series, that if the cats characters were human, the books really wouldn't be all that cozy.
In this installment of the series, Wilma, a U.S. Probation Officer, and Mandell Bennett, her former partner, were called to San Francisco to testify in a parole hearing for Cage Jones, the last criminal case they oversaw before Wilma retired. The day after seeing that Jones put away for a longer time, she left for home. Because of the stress of the hearing, she kept her cell phone turned off and did not listen to the car radio and therefore missed the news that her former partner had been shot and that Jones had escaped from prison. She stopped at an outlet mall to shop as planned, but as she was ready to leave the mall was grabbed from behind and taken away.
Throughout the series, and continued in this book, there is a thread of about battered women. In this book that thread is eventually tied to the Cage Jones case. This doesn't sound very cozy so far does it?
But then the cats enter the story. It was Dulcie, Wilma's cat who sounded the alarm when Wilma failed to turn up at home. When Dulcie realized her house had been broken into, she placed a call alerting the police to the break in. From there on the cats take over. Dulcie, with her friends, Joe Grey and Kit, track the suspects around town and regularly call in clues. With the help of a colony of feral cats, they eventually solve the case.
This series started with one cat Joe Grey, who could talk and read. Regular readers were there when Joe Grey found Dulcie they discovered each other's similar abilities. Readers were also there when they let their owners in on the secret. As the series progressed, many more cats are talking (as well as a few dogs in one book specifically) and many more humans who are in on the secret. I would think the line will have to be drawn on this expansion soon or keeping track of who can talk and who knows will just get to be too difficult taking away from the charm of the series.
REVIEWED BY CARYN ST. CLAIR
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