Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Bookish Thoughts: The Ninth Life by Clea Simon

At first, they were shadows. ~ Opening of The Ninth Life



The Ninth Life by Clea Simon
Severn House, 2016
Crime Fiction; 224 pgs
Source: From the Publisher via NetGalley for an honest review.

I admit to some reservations about Clea Simon's The Ninth Life given the novel is told from the point of view of a cat. Having read and enjoyed some of the author's other books, however, I decided to give it a chance. Saved from drowning by a young street girl with pink hair who calls herself Care, the old cat takes an instant liking to her. Blackie, as the cat is named by Care, doesn't remember his life before the near drowning, other than the occasional flashback. Care is in the middle of her own predicament, determined to find out who was behind the murder of her mentor, a private investigator, and finish the case he started that may have lead to his death.  

You might not expect a novel narrated by a cat to be quite so gritty--but there is nothing light or cozy about The Ninth Life. Care is in real danger, mixing with drug dealers, thieves and some other very seedy people. Blackie is very much a cat--he has no special abilities. He cannot talk or communicate with the humans around him beyond your average cat behavior. It makes for an interesting perspective. Although he uncovers evidence and comes to his own conclusions and occasionally comes to Care's rescue, he is really more of an observer. Care must discover the truth for herself, unraveling the leads left behind by her mentor, while trying to protect not only herself and Blackie, but also her younger friend, a fellow foster brother she's taken under her wing. 

My heart went out for Care. She has a good head on her shoulders and knows how to survive, but she doesn't have all the answers. She has very limited information to go on, and it takes awhile before she has enough pieces to really make sense of everything. Nothing was quite as simple as it first appeared. Care also has a strong sense of right and wrong, another quality that instantly drew me to her. You see that in the way she treats those she cares about.

It could not have been easy to write a novel from the perspective of a cat. I admired the author's ability to do it and remain true to that voice, but also felt that it created a bit of a distance between me, as the reader, and what was going on in the book. Even so, I couldn't help but like Blackie and enjoy his take on the events going on around him. I could understand his loyalty to Care--I wanted to protect her too. And even if Blackie would hate it, I really wish I could pick him up and give him a hug.

The mystery itself was quite interesting. There are quite a few pieces to fit into the puzzle as events unfold, and it was fun to see Care and Blackie come to their own conclusions. The ending was particularly intense with a promise of more to come. The Ninth Life is a unique mystery and I am definitely curious to see where the Clea Simon goes with the characters next.


To learn more about Clea Simon and her work, please visit the author's websiteShe can also be found on Goodreads and Twitter.


© 2016, Wendy Runyon of Musings of a Bookish Kitty. All Rights Reserved. If you're reading this on a site other than Musings of a Bookish Kitty or Wendy's feed, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.

24 comments:

  1. I've got this one on my Kindle to read soon - hopefully, in the next couple of weeks. I'm intrigued by the premise and after listening to the author at Left Coast Crime, I want to see how she tells this story through the eyes of Blackie. I'm not a big lover of tales from an animal's point of view, but I'm willing to give it a shot. You made it sound very good, Wendy!

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    1. Kay - I will be curious to know what you think when you read it, Kay. It was different, and while I'm still not sold on an animal narrator, I did enjoy the book overall.

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  2. Interesting--I think most of us would have expected a light, humorous cozy given the cat as a protagonist. Sounds like the author is giving a bit of a twist to a couple of genres. :)

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    1. Jenclair - I knew enough ahead of time not to expect light and humorous, but that tends to be the way most books narrated by animals go, doesn't it?

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  3. This book did not interest me at all just based off the blurb and my impression. I don't really enjoy talking cats and thought this sounded to cutesy but this sounds really good! Definitely different from what I was expecting. I think I'd enjoy this and it's definitely unique. I'm adding it to my TBR. Great review! You changed my mind completely about this one.

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    1. Katherine - I had reservations too. While I'm still not completely sold on an animal narrator, I did enjoy The Ninth Life. And there is nothing cutesy about this book.

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  4. I downloaded this one a couple of days ago.
    I have to admit I wasn't sure about getting it because I expected it would be a fluff book, a humorous cozy with a wise-cracking cat or a very juvenile plot. But after reading a few reviews I changed my mind. I love cats so that helps too. I hope to get to it soon.

    Great review, Wendy!

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    1. Rita - I look forward to seeing what you think of this one, Rita.

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  5. This actually sounds pretty interesting now. Blackie sounds like a good (if odd) choice for a narrator. Hmm. Maybe I'll try to get around to reading this because I'm intrugued!
    Thanks for the great review, Wendy!

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    1. Annika - Yes, the cat as the narrator is different--and risky (on the author's part), I think, for this type of book. I hope you like it if you do read it!

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  6. I'm quite intrigued by the idea of an animal narrative; after all I don't often come across books with such narrative style. That said, I'll probably check it out when the mood calls for it. :-)

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    1. Melody - It is unusual. And really, you are more likely to find a book narrated by a dog than you are a cat. :-)

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  7. This is not a book that I would normally pick up, but your review makes me curious to see how a book reads that is narrated by a cat. :) I'm putting this one on my library list!

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    1. Lark - This was an unusual one for me too--at least because of the narrator (I love mysteries). I am glad I took a chance on it. :-)

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  8. Oh my goodness what an unusual narrator - I'm glad you put me right as I would have thought this was going to be a cuddly fluffy type of book - glad to hear it worked for you!

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    1. Cleo - Although I wouldn't have minded cuddling with Blackie if he'd let me (which he likely wouldn't), this was definitely not a cuddly fluffy book.

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  9. I almost dismissed this novel when you mentioned it was narrated by a cat, but now I'm intrigued!

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    1. Stephanie - The author took a real chance choosing to have the cat narrate the story, especially given it's a straight book. I thought she did a good job of it.

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  10. I am actually intrigued that this book is told from the perspective of a cat but I can see how it will feel detached. I'm not sure about this but the cat narrator is something to try.

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    1. Athira - It definitely created a bit of distance between me and the characters. I think the book has a lot going for it, but that issue did bother me a little.

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  11. Thank you for giving my new venture a chance, Wendy. No, it isn't cozy. I intend to keep writing the lighter books, but this one just wanted to be (and, yes, I am deep in revisions on a sequel). I do want to reassure readers that I care very much about my characters and would never be needlessly cruel to them. I want them to triumph, but life is hard sometimes. At any rate, thank you all for reading. I hope some of you will post your own thoughts, too. Thanks.

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    1. Clea - I think it's admirable that you did something so different--not only for yourself but for the mystery genre as well. I thought the harshness you describe in the novel of life for both Care and Blackie was true to the story you were writing--and really, true to life.

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  12. PS - I have taken your note about the distance in mind and think I may have resolved some of those issues in the second book.

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    1. Clea - I look forward to seeing where Care and Blackie take me next!

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