Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Review: Probable Claws by Clea Simon

I am not a cat. Beyond the obvious - no fur, no whiskers - I'm not and have never been as fastidious as your average feline, and I'm certainly not the clean freak that my own Musetta is.
[from the prologue]

Probable Claws by Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press, 2009 (ARC)
Crime Fiction (MYS); 255 pgs

My favorite computer moments, however awkward, are when I have a cat sitting on my desk, another cat lying across my chest and arms and a dog at my feet. There is just something comforting in being surrounded by my fur friends. It might come as a surprise then when I tell you that I haven’t always been a fan of animal related mysteries. No, that isn’t quite true. I had not really tried enough to form that solid of an opinion. What I had read had not impressed me much and so for quite a while, I shied away from them.

And then I was introduced to Clea Simon’s Theda Krakow series. It was impossible not to fall in love with Musetta, Theda’s beautiful and playful tuxedo cat. What I like most about this particular series is how natural the cats are in the book. The cats are natural and realistic, which fits well with this series. They behave just like my cats. There are moments when I find myself nodding, “Parker does that!” Or light is shed on a behavior I might not have understood before.

Another aspect I like about the Theda Krakow series is how character driven the books are. Theda is a freelance reporter and music critic in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Theda’s personal and professional lives are woven together in such a way that they are integral parts of the mystery; the club music scene and her involvement with the cat community, included. In Probable Claws, the line is even more blurred as Theda’s career and relationships suddenly are put into precarious positions. What begins as a suspected poisoning of cats at her friend Violet’s shelter soon escalates into murder, and Theda becomes the number one suspect. Could shelter politics be behind everything? Or is a simple case of jealousy or greed?

Animal shelters carry a heavy burden in our society, and Clea Simon touches upon some of the difficulties they face. While her novels focus on cats, the issues also apply to other pets, such as dogs as well. In Probable Claws, the author addresses the problem of over population and euthanasia. With over population, it is difficult to maintain a no kill stance and yet many shelters are trying to go that route, limiting euthanasia only to hard to place animals. But what exactly constitutes a hard to place animal? This too is under scrutiny and a serious issue to consider.

Theda is in the thick of things in Probable Claws and she comes across as strong but vulnerable. So much in her life seems to be going downhill all at once and the author captures Theda’s internal struggle of trying to stay in control despite the odds. Many of Theda’s friends make an appearance in Probable Claws, including her boyfriend Bill and one of my favorite characters, Violet. The reader gets the opportunity to know fellow reporter Ralph a little better in this novel. Although he isn’t the most likeable guy, I found myself feeling sorry for him as the novel progressed. But only a little.

Probable Claws, the fourth book in the series, is the best yet. The mystery is tightly woven and the tension builds as the story unfolds, resulting in a climax that was both exciting and satisfying. Theda grew as a character in this book, and I look forward to seeing where the author takes her next.

If you haven't already, take a look at my interview with the author! You can learn more about Clea Simon and her books on the author's website and on her blog, Cats & Crime & Rock & Roll.

Other books in the series:
Mew is For Murder
Cattery Row
Cries and Whiskers

Challenge Commitment Fulfilled:
ARC Challenge, 2009 Pub Challenge, Cozy Mystery Challenge, What's in a Name Challenge


  1. Between the interview and this review, I know at some point I'm going to have to pick this series up. I think the combination of animal interest and mystery is genius!

  2. I HAVE to pick this one up. Thanks for another great recommendation, Wendy! :D

  3. I must confess I also have not been a huge fan of the animal detective genre. I recently enjoyed the Bull Moose Dog Run mysteries told from a Labradors perspective.

    Most dont impress me much. I like the sound of this series though and will definitely search for a copy.

    Thanks for the review.

  4. Wow...this actually does sound good! As much as I enjoy mysteries, and as much as I love all things cuddly, I've just never been the slightest bit tempted to pick up any of the cat/dog mystery books. You may have just opened a new door for me. Oh crap...did I really need any new doors opened?

  5. This does sound like an interesting series. I love watching cats--almost a meditative activity. I'll look for the first in the series.

  6. Hi folks,
    I had my say yesterday in the interview, but had to chime in here: If any of you think you might be tempted to read my mysteries but aren't sure, you can go over to my home page - -- I've got the openings of all four of my mysteries on the site (just click on the book covers) so you can read and judge for yourselves!
    And thank you for all the nice comments!

  7. I am not interested in the animal detective series either, though this series sounds interesting. I am more of a dog person, but I may just have to venture over to the cat side and pick this series up. Great review Wendy!

  8. I love animals and animal detectives! These books sound really good to me.

  9. You pretty much had me at "claw". I actually didn't know that such thing as animal mysteries existed! Anyway, this definitely sounds like a book for me.

  10. I didn't know animal mysteries existed either but being an animal lover I'd think they'd be a fun read. I like too that she touches on the problems with animal shelters and the no kill stance-there has been a lot of discussion over that lately here. Oh, and my favorite time is the evening when I go lay in bed and Buddy stretches out by my leg and he goes to sleep and I read. Precious moments indeed!

  11. I read a lot of the Cat Who Mysteries but I have not heard of these until your review. I am really interested in maybe picking one of these up. Your review was fantastic and I truly enjoyed it!

  12. This was a fabulous review!!
    Well.. thanks...I know I have tempted you, now you've tempted me. I'm going out tomorrow and getting this book.
    Should work with my pack of fur. :)

    Thanks, Wisteria

  13. My cat tends to actually walk on the keyboard when I am on the computer, which can be just slightly annoying! :)

    With all the recently published books that are narrated by dogs, I was expecting this one to be something similar--but from a cat's perspective. It sounds totally different though! I struggle with the idea of euthanizing animals, but I understand it costs money to feed and shelter them, and that money isn't always available. Anyways...I'm going on a tangent...:)

  14. Love stories with animals in them, preferrably as main characters but as long as they're somewhere in the story I'm happy :)

  15. Great review, Wendy! You know I love reading mysteries so this series definitely goes to my wishlist! :)

  16. The titles are too adorable. Have to read!!

  17. I'm trying to figure this out--is it told from the point of view of the cat? Are Theda and Musetta cats? LOL--I guess maybe this is just my unfamiliarity with the series speaking. But I'm on the laptop right now, and Maggie's got her head resting on my arm. Makes it hard to type sometimes, but I love the little cuddle bug. :)

  18. Sandy - I enjoy the series quite a bit, Sandy. Although the subject matters can be serious, these are fun mysteries. Not heavy at all.

    Alice - I am pretty sure you would like this series, Alice. :-)

    Caspette - Some are better than others, that's for sure. I haven't read the Bull Moose Dog Run mysteries. I've only read one book from an animal's perspective so far and I didn't care for it much, I admit. I have another on my stacks to try that I've heard great things about--hopefully that one will be better.

    Debi - LOL We can never have enough books on that ol' TBR pile. :-)

    Jenclair - Yes, I find that watching my cats is very relaxing. They are just so darn cute!

    Clea - Thank you, Clea, for providing the link. And thank you too for the copy of the book! I appreciate you giving me the chance to read it.

    Kristie - Hopefully if you give it a try, you will enjoy it. :-)

    Kathy - I hope you will give them a try!

  19. Nymeth - There are quite a few mystery series featuring animal lovers and their pets out there. This is a good one to start with if you want to give them a try, I think.

    Dar - There are quite a few cats to keep readers entertained in the this series. I like too that it deal with human issues as well though. There's a good balance in the series, I think.

    Staci - My husband has read several of the Cat Who mysteries, but I don't think he's a huge fan of them. He gets most of them as gifts and so feels obligated to read them. Someday I plan to try one or two for myself.

    I really enjoy Clea Simon's series. If you get the chance to read them, I hope you will like them too.

    Wisteria - Thank you! I imagine you will be able to relate to many of the issues brought up in this series. I think the work you do with the greyhounds is wonderful, Donna. Of course, I imagine they make it easy too being the lovers that they are. :-)

    Laura - LOL Mine try to do that too. It was easier to keep them off when I had a desk top computer--then they would just sit there in front of my monitor. Now that I have the laptop though, it's a little more difficult for them.

    I know what you mean about euthanizing animals. Over population of animals is such a big problem. I love the idea of fostering animals to help avoid euthanasia and keeping them in shelters. If I didn't work full-time outside of the home and have three animals of my own already, I would seriously consider it.

    Jen - I'm not too familiar of books with the animals as the main characters, although I have one sitting here on my desk that I believe is written from the dog's perspective.

    Melody - Thank you! These are fun mysteries. I hope you do get a chance to read them.

    Sadako - Aren't they though? I love the titles too.

    Trish - No, the books are told from the viewpoint of Theda who is very much human. She probably wishes sometimes she were a cat though. :-) Musetta is her cat.

  20. I've only tried a couple animal-related series myself with less than stellar results. Maybe I should give this one a try.

  21. Sounds interesting and I just love the title :-)

    BTW, I have a little something for you at my blog, you can pick it up here.

  22. Lisa - I think with everything, there's some that are better than others. I have started to enjoy cozies more in recent years and I wonder if that had something to do with my dislike of animal related mysteries before (since so many fall into that cozy category).

    Melissa - It is a great title, isn't it? It makes my husband groan though--he isn't so fond of play on words. :-)

  23. I've never read any of these but you make them sound great. Who doesn't love cats? :-)

  24. Thanks, folks!
    I think Wendy answered all the questions, but to stress -- cats are central to my books, but they're very much real cats. They don't talk (in this series) and they don't solve the crimes. All the crimes have something to do with animals, too. And though they are "cozy," in the sense that they are traditional mysteries (very little blood and guts, clues sprinkled throughout, amateur detective), they aren't cutesy. At least, I hope not. And again - ifyou're at all tempted, but not sure, please feel free to browse the sample chapters I have posted at my home site (at ) or request one or two at your local library!

    Thank you all for making me feel so welcome here!

  25. Sounds really interesting :)

    BTW, you have an award waiting for you :) please pick it up here ..

  26. I've never been attracted to this type of novel but, after reading your review and the interview, I think I've been missing something! If I see these books at the library, I might just try one!

    Thanks for piquing my interest!

  27. BTW, I've passed you an award, Wendy! :)

  28. Marie - I don't know how anyone couldn't. They're so adorable. :-)

    Melody & Desert Rose - Thank you for the awards! That is so kind of you!

    Linda - I hope you do get a chance to read them, Linda!

  29. Clea - Yes, cutesy is not a word I would use to describe your books. And while they fit into the general definition of cozy, they don't have that stereotypical cozy feel to them, which I think is one of the reasons I like the series so much.

    And that isn't to say I don't like cutesy--I just have to be in the right mood for it.

    Thank you for letting me interview you and review your book, Clea!

  30. Probable Claws :) What a great title.
    Whiskas in the Night, I'd better paws now, as I'm thinking of sillier and sillier titles.

  31. Oh do I admit it... Ok, I'm not a fan of animal mystery series but maybe it's because I've only read a couple and that may not be a vary fair assessment. You make this series sound so fun though that I'm getting more tempted :)


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