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