Friday, September 4, 2020

Cat on the Edge (Joe Grey #1), by Shirley Rousseau Murphy (author), Susan Boyce (narrator)

Blackstone Audio, March 2013 (original publication January 1996)

Joe Grey is a cat who has been through a lot of changes in the last week or two. He can suddenly understand human language. Sitting with his human, Clyde, while Clyde reads out loud to him, he finds he can even read the words on the page.

That's unsettling enough. Then he discovers he can speak human language.

Joe does not regard this as a Great Step Forward. It's very upsetting to him. He likes being a cat. Clyde's human friends are a lot more annoying, now that he can understand their conversation--entirely focused on things cats consider trivial.

But he might have found ways to appreciate these changes, with some time. Instead, he and one of his cat friends, Dulcie, who has experienced the same changes, witness the murder of a business associate of Clyde's. And the killer sees them. Not only sees them, but apparently realizes that they can tell what they've seen--that they are witnesses who matter. 
They each go home, Joe to Clyde and Dulcie to Wilma, but it's not long before they both realize the killer knows where they live. They're on the run, and they need to solve the crime if they are ever going to be able to be safe again.

They start investigating, and discover the human world is ridiculously complicated. Clyde runs a service garage in space he rents from a car dealership, and part of the deal is providing service to the dealership's cars. He connected with the owner of the dealership originally through an old school acquaintance, Jimmy Osborn, who is employed as the manager. Jimmy is married to Kate, whom Clyde really likes, and is friendlier with than Jimmy, but, you know, married to Jimmy. The owner of the dealership, Samuel Beckwhite, is the man who was murdered. He was married to Sheril, who has been having an affair with Jimmy. Jimmy has a connection with Lee whose last name I won't even guess at the spelling of. (I listened to the audiobook.) Lee is Welsh, and he grew up listening to all sorts of Welsh stories about cats, which, yes, is highly relevant to events.

This book was first published in 1996, and in some respects it shows its age. It's trivial that this is set some years before cellphones were everywhere, and this piece of tech we take for granted comes up only in passing, near the end, as something the mayor thinks is too fancy and expensive for the police, who could really use them. More annoying for the current reader will be he fact that there's some lazy stereotyping, the slut-shaming of Sheril, and the Latino waiter who doesn't speak English too good. Kate is a housewife, making Jimmy's home beautiful and a good showplace for his success.This was still pretty normal for the time, and Wilma, for instance, has a very different background. It's still a bit jarring for today's readers, though. I will say, in Kate's and Murphy's defense, when push comes to shove, she proves to be no spineless pushover.

I enjoyed this. It's a lot of fun. It does have some flaws, though, and won't be for everyone.

I bought this audiobook.

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