Reviewed by Carol Kurtz
What the Cat Dragged In by Gilbert Morris
"...the perfect setting for this rags to riches mystery. Animal lovers will appreciate the pages of interaction and antics between the many species."
What happens when two strangers are thrown together by order of a will to live in the same mansion? Add to that a menagerie of animals and a lonely boy, and you’ve got the setting for Gilbert Morris’ new feline mystery series.
Kate and her son lived in dire poverty until she is notified that she’s inherited a mansion from a distant relative she’s never met. Hoping this is exactly what her troubled son needs, she’s shocked to learn that she must live with Jake, another distant relative she’s never met. He’s a struggling writer, and that’s about all she knows about him. She brings her two cats along, and quickly finds out something else about Jake - he doesn’t like animals.
Cats are an enigma. They seem aloof and uncaring, yet they can also display affection to the people they love. Cleo is like that. But Jacques the Ripper is another story. He’s a rare, mixed African breed called a Savannah. And he’s not called Jacques the Ripper for nothing. He has a penchant for sneaking up on people and tearing into them with his formidable claws. And he especially dislikes Jake, the Intruder. The condition of the will is that Kate and Jake must take care of an eclectic brood: one large shy dog, a bird with foul language, a ferret, a rabbit with a taste for electrical cords, and even a raccoon. Oh, and snakes. Felines Cleo and Jacques have a language all their own, communicating with each throughout the novel with dialogue true to their personalities:
“Just think about it, Jacques. A Person has so many disadvantages. They can’t smell anything unless it’s stuck right in their faces. Not like us felines, who can smell a fish a mile away.”
“I guess you’re right about that, Cleo. They’re lucky they have us around. If they didn’t, they’d be in sorry shape. The place would be overrun with rodents. A lot of appreciation I get. I brought in half a dozen of those silly mice. She calls them Alabama beach mice and acts like they’re sacred or something. What’s up with that? It’s my destiny to kill those vermin.”
Jacques only loves Kate, who is nervous about living with Jake, even though he is good with her son, Jeremy. But Jeremy’s now struggling to fit into in a new middle school and winds up in the wrong crowd. Kate relies on her trust in God when things look the worst for her son. And there’s a growing chemistry between her and Jake.
Written by a man, there’s more insight into the male point of view, and some attention is given to the temptations they deal with. The dialogue really flows, and there’s wit and a dry subtle humor between Kate and Jake. The subtle humor is evident also with cute little Rhiannon, a strange, free spirited little girl who lives on the beach with her grandfather and has a wonderful vernacular that gives us a glimpse into her spunky soul.
The murder doesn’t happen until half way through the novel. Until then it’s more of a drama of the boy’s coming-of-age troubles and the mistrust-turned-attraction between the couple. The cats are involved in solving the murder mystery, but not by accidentally coming upon some important clue. These cats understand English, and Jacques wants to show them what he knows. He wants to save the day and prove to Jake that he’s not useless. And you’ll never guess who did it. Although it might have been nice if we had a clue ahead of time, it’s also fun to be surprised.
White Sands, Alabama is the perfect setting for this rags to riches mystery. Animal lovers will appreciate the pages of interaction and antics between the many species. Morris certainly couldn’t be drawing from personal experience as he portrays Jake as a frustrated writer. He’s already won a Christy award (for Edge of Honor) and has penned the popular House of Winslow series, Lonestar Legacy series, and much more. This is the first of a series of three books called Jacques & Cleo, Cat Detectives. He sets the stage well for the sequel, not tying things up too neatly. I can hardly wait to see what Jacques and Cleo will be up to next time.
Carol Kurtz Darlington is a certified personal trainer and a certified group fitness instructor who works with people who want to lose weight as well as those who just want to enjoy better health. She enjoys empowering and encouraging others to reach their health and fitness goals, feel better about themselves in the process, and enjoy more energy to stay active in all areas of their lives. She is the founder of Totally Fit With Carol, a Christian weight loss website featuring workout videos, health tips, exercise advice, and more. She loves her morning cappuccino and her beloved grand-dog. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling and haunting Starbucks.