Escaping Los Angeles and the ugly memories of her son’s recent murder, Maudie Toola returns to her childhood home of Molena Point, bringing her orphaned grandson, whom she must now raise, with her. Mourning for her son, she’s not looking forward to the holidays but feels she must make them positive for the child. But Maudie is unaware that the killer has followed her, nor does she know that the small seaside village is dealing with a series of brutal assaults. A team of criminals is stalking single women, hiding their attacks behind spectacular break-ins to divert the cops. And this time there’s not even a phone call from the four-footed snitch to give the cops a lead.
Meanwhile, a new tomcat appears on the scene, a wise and elderly wanderer who bears an important message from a state prisoner for the chief of police. But this cat has a personal agenda too - as does Maudie, who harbors her own secret about her son’s killer. As the lonely prison cat provides the link between the mysteries, Joe Grey and his pals, in turn, help him find a surprising new home, a safe retreat in time for the holidays.
With a story both enchanting and suspenseful, Shirley Rousseau Murphy shows once again why her trio of feline sleuths are so beloved by her fans, and why the Joe Grey mysteries should be at the top of every cat lover’s Christmas list.
CAT COMING HOME is an excellent addition to the mystery series featuring feline Joe Grey and his pals in a small town nestled among the hills next to the sea. Molena Point, California is home to a unique breed of cat, one that is capable of reading and speaking the human language. Please don’t jump to the conclusion that this must then be some implausible, cutesy tale of talking cats; it is not. The ability of Joe Grey, his lady love Dulcie, and their young friend Kit to speak is kept private and hidden from all but a few chosen humans. The cats choose to anonymously help the local police department using their unique skills and instincts.
The Joe Grey series focuses on a different individual or family in Molena Point in each book. However, the community is still very much involved with their own set of skills. Each entry can stand alone yet the reader’s enjoyment is so much richer when the books are read in sequence. Even though this is 16th in the series, none of the charm has been lost with longevity, rather it has been enhanced as we watch how the people and cats interact and grow.
Maudie Toola has just returned to Molena Point along with her orphaned grandson Benny. They are trying to start life anew following the horrible shooting deaths of Benny’s father and new stepmother. It is almost Christmas, but Molena Point is having trouble of its own: isolated individuals are being attacked in their homes. The lone women are then roughed up and their homes ransacked with the perpetrators fleeing just as quickly as they arrived. With nothing of substance stolen, Chief of Police Max Harper and his men can’t seem to get a handle on how to catch these criminals or get a clue on where they might strike next. They have determined that the attackers plan a diversionary break-in which captures the police’s attention while the invaders go on to attack their chosen victim. Trying to cover the entire town for both possibilities is stretching the small police force very thin.
Joe Grey and Dulcie are as frustrated as the police. After all, how can two cats survey the entire town at once? Kit is helping but is distracted by a large yellow tomcat who seems to know more about these crimes. Could he be another speaking cat? Where did he come from and why is he here?
Ryan Flannery is building a studio onto Maudie’s home where she can make her award-winning quilts. Ryan isn’t the only one worried about Maudie being alone with all those new windows through which she is so visible. Maudie has a secret, one that only reveals itself at sly moments when she thinks no one is looking. Maudie and Benny both admit that they did not see the killer in those brief flashes of gunfire yet, if the killer thinks otherwise, he could have followed them from Los Angeles, putting them at great risk.
Maudie is unclear who she can trust. Her sister and nephews live just up the street but they haven’t offered any assistance or support. Maudie has become fond of young teenager Lori who helps Ryan in construction. Yet Lori’s father is in prison for murder and one of Maudie’s nephews has just stabbed him in jail. Perhaps Lori is in just as much danger as Maudie.
Who is behind the vicious newspaper attacks against police chief Max Harper and the entire department? Ownership of the paper recently switched hands and what used to be news coverage has become twisted and opinionated quasi-editorials. Most residents read the paper, and some actually believe the drivel printed every day. Max needs to calm everyone down and prove he is still capable of doing his job. There is a particularly amusing scene when Ryan sneaks Joe Grey into town hall.
Shirley Rousseau Murphy’s writing has taken a step forward with her agility in twisting many storylines together. Plot lines that seem unrelated come together effortlessly. Mrs. Murphy has a way of weaving all the events together with strings of friendship. I suppose one of Maudie’s award-winning quilts could represent the various factions and plot lines patched together so seamlessly. I am certain that CAT COMING HOME will be an award-winning addition to this heart-warming series. It absolutely deserves to be on everyone’s “TBR” piles this fall. Just in time to celebrate the holidays along with Molena Point once Joe and pals help Max and his crew put the violence to rest. Highly recommended.
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Would you try another book from Shirley Rousseau Murphy and/or Susan Boyce?
Murphy is very well-regarded and I might try another book from her, but Susan Boyce's narration was so dull and lifeless that I would think twice if she were the narrator.
Has Cat Coming Home turned you off from other books in this genre?
No, I love "The Cat Who" books and will look for other similar stories. This series is renowned and I might give this series another chance if there is a different narrator.
Would you be willing to try another one of Susan Boyce’s performances?
Probably not. I'd have to really think hard about it and listen carefully to the free samples.
What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment?
Disappointment and annoyance that a book that was billed as a "Christmas cozy" had a story that was dark and that depicted grotesque violence against some of the most defenseless members of society. It was almost shocking. It wouldn't have been so bad if the book hadn't been advertised as a charming Christmas cozy, but considering the way the book was marketed, I felt misled. Combined with a narrator whose work could probably best be described as "lifeless" made for a very unsatisfying listening experience.
Any additional comments?
This is part of a renowned series and Murphy is a nine-time Cat Writers’ Association Award winner (did you know there is a Cat Writer’s Association??? There is!!!). I got halfway through before giving up. I love “The Cat Who” books and talking cat detectives at Christmas sounded cute, but the story was dull and often grim. As an audio book, the dullness was exacerbated by a dull reader. It's well-reviewed and readers love it, but I was an exception.
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A fun new series for me and what a better way to start than with a feel good Christmas read. A small town is being terrorized by some strange events of vandalism that just don't add up. The locals are perplexed until some anonymous calls start coming into the police department and they are able to start to get a handle on these acts of violence.
I don't think it is necessary to start this series at the beginning but it would help to get to know the personalities of these Katty cats better. I already have another one of these mystical, imaginative, gumshoe adventures on my TBR list for next month.
Wonderful characters who are so easy to get to know and quickly care for. Susan Boyce's narration does a good job bringing them to life and off the page.