Sunday, December 09, 2007

Cries and Whiskers by Clea Simon

Cries and Whiskers by Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, 2007 (ARE)
Mystery; 260 pgs

Completed: 12/08/2007
Rating: * (Very Good)

First Sentence: She felt sick.

Reason for Reading: Clea Simon was kind enough to send me an advanced reader’s copy of her latest release, Cries and Whiskers. A mystery, a book about cats, and on the recommendation of author and friend Karen E. Olson, I could not say no. Fortunately for me, I didn’t.

This is my first series completion for the Series Challenge. At least until Clea publishes another book in the series.

Comments: There were a lot of things I could have done today. I should have starting putting up the Christmas decorations, which in years past have been up no later than the first of December. I could have got a good start on the laundry. Maybe mopped the kitchen floor. Or given the dog a much needed bath. Instead, I settled in this afternoon to read Clea Simon’s latest, Cries and Whiskers, and before I knew it, I had reached the end.

Cries and Whiskers is the third novel in the Theda Krakow mystery series. Freelance journalist Theda is right at home with the club scene in her hometown of Cambridge. She has a regular gig writing feature articles on local musicians and although it does not bring in as much money as she might like, she enjoys having the steady work while at the same time spending time with her musician friends, the fans and experiencing the music itself. When rumors of a new designer drug making its way on the club circuit reach her, Theda begins to ask questions, thinking perhaps there may be a story there.

Meanwhile, the death of an animal rights activist who had been trying to rescue feral cats before a winter storm hits brings cat lovers Theda and Violet out of bed one morning in an effort to finish the job. The activist who had once disparaged domesticated animals in favor of protecting the rights of wild had not been one of Theda’s favorite people. However, her effort to save the cats from coming to harm is enough for Theda to give her the benefit of the doubt, even after death. Questions involving the death of the activist begin to accumulate and Theda soon finds herself on a mission to get to the truth. The more Theda learns, the more questions she has, as both mysteries touch much closer to home that she would like. Theda finds herself in over her head in more ways than one.

As in the previous novels, the author takes readers onto the club scene for a front row view as well as going behind the scenes. She never fails to capture the excitement and thrill of the experience, as Theda and her friends enjoy the shows. In this latest installment, however, readers are introduced to a darker side of the club scene. Usually a comfortable place for Theda, she suddenly finds her own expectations and ideas in doubt. Theda is a relatively trusting person and that trust is sorely tested in this novel. However, she is no pushover. She has a nose for trouble and is not afraid to uncover it even at its worst.

As I have come to expect with the author’s mysteries, she is not afraid to tackle moral issues. In this instance, along with the topic of drug use, she also takes on the subjects of animal activism verses animal welfare and the possible impact of development in growing communities. Clea Simon naturally touches upon these issues as part of her story, adding depth and insight amidst the humor and more cozy mystery feel the novel offers.

With plenty of playful moments with the loveable Musetta and a chance to get to now Theda’s boyfriend, Bill, a little more, Cries and Whiskers does not disappoint. It is a great addition to the series. Clea Simon sets up the story quite well, and once it gets under way, there’s no turning back.

Favorite Parts: I admit it. I love jazz music, and I doubt I would have found myself in need of distraction at a jazz concert the way Theda did. I was quite amused with how she kept herself awake and will have to keep that in mind the next time I have to sit through a rather dull lecture or some other event where I find my eyes drooping.

I also enjoyed the moments that Theda gave Musetta extra attention, playing with her. Some of their games reminded me of those I play with my own cat.

Miscellaneous: There is always a bit of sadness that comes with finishing a series, or at least catching up. Now the wait for the release of the next book begins . . .

Ohp! My own feline friend has decided to visit, jumping up on my desk and in front of my monitor (you should try trying to see around him!). Time I get this posted and give him some much deserved attention.


  1. Glad to hear you enjoyed reading this series, Wendy! I still have problem looking for her first book; so I think I will have to check it with an online bookstore which is my last resort.

    BTW, how's your dog doing? :)

  2. I read part of the first book in this series as a selection from the Email Book Club, and I recall liking it. Even though I'm not big on series or genre fiction, I was still intrigued. Your reviews are making me think I may step outside my usual box and check these out. Thanks!

    I noticed you're using the new sign-in format for comments. I am too, and I haven't seen it in many places yet, but I hope it will catch on!

  3. Thrilled that you liked my recommendation, Wendy! I'm actually going up to Boston to see Clea on Tuesday and we're speaking together at the Brookline Booksmith, so anyone in that area should try to stop in.

  4. Thanks for reading - and don't worry, a fourth is in the works!

    Melody - WorldWide Mystery has published a very nice (and very inexpensive) mass market paperback version of the first book,"Mew is for Murder." It's only available online - do a search of the title and WorldWide, or go to (seriously, it's a Harlequin imprint.)

    And thanks for reading!

  5. I need to un-bookmark your blog. ;) I keep reading your book reviews and as a result, my wishlist is getting out of control.

  6. Melody - Riley is doing great. He's completely over whatever it was he had, thank goodness. He got his teeth cleaned late last week and is back on antibiotics just as a precaution. He's become a pro at taking his pills. :-)

    Florinda - If you do decide to give it a try, I hope you will like the books. :-)

    In regards to the new sign-in format, I sort of just went with the flow. It seems to be working out well. No one's complained yet. :-)

    Karen - Thank you for introducing her books to me! I wish I could drop in and visit but it's a little out of my way. I definitely hope others will take time to do so though. Have a good time!

    Clea - Oh, I'm so glad to hear a fourth is coming! I look forward to spending more time with Theda and her friends.

    Trisha - Haha I could just stop posting reviews. Of course, then I wouldn't have much to say at all. :-)

  7. Hi Clea! Thanks for telling me. I'm looking forward to reading this series. :)

    Hey Wendy! I'm glad to hear Riley is doing great. :)

  8. I'm halfway with Trisha. So many books! But this series sounds like one I'll be checking out.

  9. Carrie K - I hope you enjoy it if you do get a chance to read it. :-)

  10. Oh, so sorry to hear about Riley! But it sounds like he's doing well.

    And thanks again - not only for the review but for linking to my blog: cats & crime & rock & roll (that is, ) A bunch of the issues you mentioned in your review are discussed in more detail (by me and others) there.

    Happy Wednesday, everyone!

  11. Thanks, Clea. He's doing very well. He's been a little rambunctious lately, chasing the cat all over the house. That isn't to say the cat isn't guilty of encouraging it though. He instigated a couple of the races through the living room tonight. :-)

    I had never really given much thought to the differences between animal welfare and the more radical side of animal rights. Or at least the opposing viewpoints of the two, I should say.

    I just love how you bring up such important issues and weave them into your mysteries so naturally.

    And I meant to mention too that I like that I appreciate that the portrayal of cats in your books is realistic. Especially with Cries and Whiskers, I couldn't help but nod and chuckle at how much Musetta and my Parker are alike in some ways behavior wise.

  12. Thanks, Wendy. My take on cats in mysteries is that cats (real cats) are fascinating and adorable as they are, why cutesy them up? And, yeah, the animal issues are a big part of why I write, I think. I don't know why they sink into my brain, but they do and I want to flesh them out, give them to characters and see how they might play out in real life.

    ok, back to shoveling...


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