|Carole Nelson Douglas: Cat in a Midnight Choir|
Forge (Hardcover), ISBN 0-312-85797-7
Carmen will do anything to avoid confronting Rafi, the only man alive who makes the Xena-sized lieutenant feel small. She will attempt to poison Max's relationship with his long-time love Temple Barr. She will play on the anguish of stalker-bedeviled ex-priest Matt Devine. An investigator famed for her insight and integrity, she will back away from the facts of the case when they appear to confirm her fears and, in the process, will endanger everyone in her orbit.
In contrast, black cat P.I. Midnight Louie defends his reputation as a furry-faced knight in shining armor, pussyfooting to the rescue of damsels in distress at the head of an ever growing army of bewhiskered associates. Louie even manages a tip of the flamingo fedora to the feline ninjas of Cats and Dogs.
While Louie unselfconsciously skewers the very kind of hard-boiled detective he conceives himself to be, Douglas twists the heart of her fourteenth Midnight Louie mystery inside out. Noble motives beget evil acts. Corruption becomes the salvation of virtue. Temple and Carmen, Max and Matt, even Rafi find themselves caught in an inversion of innocence -- every one of them a victim of past crimes and present secrets not necessarily their own.
By turns sly, satiric and heart-wrenchingly true to life, Cat in a Midnight Choir doesn't serve a safe dish of cozy for the amateur sleuth set. Douglas plays sleight of mind with the classic genre props: the stiff in the closet, long-lost relatives and a host of (more or less) absolutely impenetrable disguises. At the same time, the book speaks to the human cost of a mystery above and beyond the simple facts of death.
You don't need prior knowledge of the series to unravel the intricate plot, but the book spins out threads from previous novels that promise to stretch over several more installments. Nevertheless, readers who like their mysteries rich in character and multi-layered meaning will find Cat in a Midnight Choir a banquet indeed.
Jean Marie Ward
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