The clock said 6:30 a.m, but light through the window said it was predawn. No problem, I thought. It’s a cloudy morning and the sun is still low. But then the clouds turned thicker, darker, like smoke from a forest fire. Moments later, pounding rain sent birds into a nearby fir tree to hide. Just one raindrop could ground a bird. What next? Would the earth erupt? Would an archaeopteryx fly by? Had Armageddon begun? What should I do? The answer came in an instant. I wrapped myself in an afghan, settled into my most comfortable chair, and started reading a cozy mystery with great animal characters. Why not? Instead of a last meal, I’d enjoy one last book.
CHOOSING THE LAST BOOK BEFORE ARMAGEDDON was easy. Waiting on my Kindle was the only Shirley Rousseau Murphy “Joe Grey” cozy mystery I hadn’t read. Reading was magical just as it always is, except this time, there was a bonus: When I finished the book, the dark rain ended and the birds flapped out from beneath fir branches. I added the book to my five-star list, not because it had warded off Armageddon, but simply because it deserved it.
FIVE STARS FOR A COZY MYSTERY? A cozy is never a serious tale of personal, philosophical struggle, but is that the guideline for a good book? No. It’s the writing that counts. It must be evocative, the plotting must be strong, and for sure, the characters must be sympathetic. You have to care what happens to them, and I cared about Joe Grey and his cat friends, Dulcie and Kit. I ask you, when Armageddon looms, do you want a depressingly soul-wrenching novel or an engrossing cozy with delightful characters and a happy ending?
Queenie was a shepherd mix, the collie portion contributing long black fur that set off the ambitious red bow we always attached to her collar on Christmas Day. She enjoyed her big bow, but only until it slid beneath her chin. People don’t like things poking into their chins, and dogs don’t either. She showed her unhappiness in the doggy way: head tipped down, eyes tilted up. It’s a look we humans can’t ignore, and so we removed her décor. However, she got a new red bow the following year and with the same result.
“There are two ways humans have of not telling the truth. The first used to be hard for me to understand because it doesn’t come with any of the usual signs of not-truth-telling. Like the time Sarah called my white paws ‘socks.’ Look at your adorable little socks, she said. Socks are what humans wear on their feet to make them more like cats’ paws…
“Now I know that humans sometimes best understand the truth of things if they come at it indirectly. Like how sometimes the best way to catch a mouse that’s right in front of you is to back up a bit before you pounce.”
This is how “Love Saves the Day” by Gwen Cooper begins—with the words of Prudence, a tabby cat. You might at first think it’s just another of those cute and clever speaking-cat books, but it isn’t. It’s a deeply affecting story of a mother, a daughter, and a thoughtful cat. Continue reading →
When I heard a cat yowling, I figured she was looking for a lover, but then it went on for too many nights, which made me wonder if the toms didn’t like her song. I really couldn’t blame them. Her pitch was off.
And then I saw her—a young calico walking along our dirt road. I knew all the neighborhood cats, and she wasn’t one of them.
Certainly, she had to be hungry and thirsty, and so I scrounged in the fridge for anything a cat might eat without harm, bringing it out onto the lawn along with a bowl of water. I did this for a week, always retreating into the house because, otherwise, she wouldn’t go near the food. When the week was up, I could remain outside as long as I stayed on the back steps. Continue reading →
First we have a pandemic. Then along comes a nationwide protest over a heinous act, the protests being usurped by rioters. We need a portal into a world of peace, a portal that, unfortunately, doesn’t exist. What we do have, however, is the escape-hatch novel.
The escape-hatch novel has no room for serial murderers lurking in the alley, lizard aliens dining on humans, or evil shadows slithering across the bedroom floor. It’s a place filled with likable and often unique characters. It’s the cozy mystery. For us animal lovers, it’s best when populated with animals. Continue reading →
“A Fur Person is a cat who had decided to stay with people as long as he lives. This can only happen if a human being has imagined a part of himself into a cat just as the cat has imagined part of himself into a human being.”
Sarton’s own cat is the model for this delightful novella in which she imagines his journey from stray to gentleman cat. It’s a short and utterly charming read, complete with how the cat sees his world and sings to it.