Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Cat Who Wasn't A Dog by Marian Babson - Book Review

Status: Trying to be productive
Song: Stiff Kittens - Blaqk Audio (Amazingly this fits more than you could know.)

Can you tell a book by it's catchy title?

When I saw this in the thrift shop, the title was so interesting I picked it up. Since I like little old lady sleuth stories, I paid the ten cents for the book and took it home.

From the back cover...

A Purrfect Crime!

"Dame Cecile Savoy’s “revolting floor mop” of a Pekinese has passed away at a ripe old age. Now the aging British actress convinces her rivals on stage and screen, Trixie and Evangeline, to support her in her hour of grief…by accompanying her to a taxidermist. But it’s a cab ride straight to a cat-astrophe! No sooner do the three elderly thespians enter “Stuff Yours” than they discover a dead body, a live kitty in a cage, and flames bursting from the back room. Fortunately for a rare Japanese bobtail called Cho-Cho-San, Trixie grabs the cat before fleeing the scene. But who’s the victim? Who set the fire? And why was a gorgeous feline going to be stuffed? Of course, Cho-Cho-San knows more than she’s letting on as the curtain goes up on foul play, murderous jealousies, and a killer who may be going to the dogs…”

Yea, I love Miss Marple-type who-done-its...

But that wasn't what I got.

This is more of a character book, rather than a mystery since the reader mostly follows the elderly actresses, who are putting on the play Arsenic and Old Lace, while having difficulties with their family and acquaintances.

A murder puts into their hands a beautiful, personable cat named Cho-cho-san, that seems to be at the center of the mystery. Everyone claims the cat.

Trixie, who finds the cat, falls in love with it after rescuing it from the burning taxidermist shop. Soroya Jordan, the actress from Bollywood, says the cat is hers, but she has just returned from the Far East so nobody believes her. She whisks the cat away anyway, only to forget it in various places. Dame Cecile Savoy thinks the cat has been given to her so she can get over the grief of losing her beloved Pekinese. Teddy Boynton, a really bad actor playing a crucial part in the play, seems to have the strongest claim, since the cat actually greets him with the enthusiasm of a pet.

But which one really owns the cat? And which one of them wants to have the cat stuffed?

The question of who murdered the poor taxidermist seems to have been pushed to the back of the story somewhere. But, I was wondering if his murder had anything to do with the cat.

To complicate matters, Trixie’s daughter, Martha, is working on a cookbook of recipes for and from thespians. Her editor, Jocasta, shows up to test the recipes, but she finds a house in chaos. Creating the recipes becomes difficult because the actresses who live there don’t cook and there aren't any supplies. Jocasta decides to explore the basement to see if there's anything there she can use and discovers a broken step and the missing housekeeper, dead at the bottom of the stairs.

Putting the recipes together before the cookbook’s deadline goes downhill from there. Teetotaler Jocasta gets plastered on the cooking wine in reaction to almost landing on top of the dead housekeeper. Then ends up with a monster hangover, making things even worse.

The story is fun to read, but there's not very much sleuthing going on. This is, instead, a madcap story that reminds me of the old keystone cop movies with everyone running back and forth, slamming doors, looking through windows, and never finding each other, let alone the solution to the mystery. In the end it’s the police who actually solve the case.

My sympathy throughout is strongest for Trixie because she really wants the cat. Every time she thinks she’s reunited with the cat, someone else whisks it off, claiming it is theirs.

Interestingly, The Cat Who Wasn’t a Dog also includes recipes from Martha’s (hmmmm - interesting name) cookbook. The recipes are interesting but not anything one would pick up the book to find. The recipe for No-Pans-to-Wash-Poached-Eggs is the best, and one I will give a try to see if it actually works. I’m not sure, however, if the author wants to try and branch into the cookbook/mystery niche where they actually do put in recipes. This book meanders all over the place and tries to interest a wider audience by throwing in everything but the kitchen sink.

Did I mention the seventeen ostriches?

The real mystery is, how three ladies can go to a random shop and find there a puzzle that involves everyone they know. It’s a coincidence that's just too implausible. I won’t say that the book is a waste of time. It’s amusing and easy to read, but if you’re looking for a who-done-it with little ladies figuring it out, you won’t find it here.


Lori-ann said...

A very ... interesting find. Worth the second hand store price?

Jaime Theler said...

I still haven't managed to read it. But I will eventually. Can't pass up ostriches.

Donna said...

Well, I for one am thankful that one of the recipes was not catserole. ;) I do, however, appreciate your song choice. Love that song.

Donna said...

Oh, and what in the world did it have to do with a dog? Did the little old ladies think it was a dog?

Deborah said...

A catserole...That's really funny Donna. And the only thing that seems to have brought about the title to the book, is Dame Cecile Savoy was taking her dead Pekinese to be stuffed and they found the cat there.