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Cat in the Dark (Joe Grey Mysteries)by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Synopses & Reviews
The cat crouched in darkness beneath the library desk, her tabby stripes mingled with the shadows, her green eyes flashing light, her tail switching impatiently as she watched the last patrons linger around the circulation counter. Did humans have to dawdle, wasting their time and hers? V/hat was it about closing hour that made people so incredibly slow?
Above her the library windows were black, and out in the night the oaks' ancient branches twisted against the glass, the moon's rising light reflecting along their limbs and picking out the rooftops beyond. The time was nine-fifteen. Time to turn out the lights. Time to leave these hallowed rooms to her. Would people never leave? She was so irritated she almost shouted at them to get lost, that this was her turf now.
Beyond the table and chair legs, out past the open door, the library's front garden glowed waxen in the moonlight, the spider lilies as ghostly pale as the white reaching fingers of a dead man. Three women moved out into the garden along the stone path, beneath the oak trees' dark shelter, heading toward the street; behind them, Mavity Flowers hurried out toting her heavy book bag, her white maid's uniform as bright as moonstruck snow, hergray, wiry hair ruffled by the sea wind. Her white polyester skirt was deeply wrinkled in the rear from sitting for nearly an hour delving through the romance novels, choosing half a dozen unlikely dreams in which to lose herself. Dulcie imagined Mavity hastening home to her tiny cottage, making herself a cup of tea, getting comfy, maybe slipping into her bathrobe and putting her feet up for an evening's read--for a few hours' escape and pleasure after scrubbingand vacuuming all day in other people's houses.
Mavity was a dear friend of Dulcie's housemate; she and Wilma had known each other since elementary school, more than fifty years. Wilma was the tall one, strong and self-sufficient, while Mavity was such a small person, so wrinkled and frail-looking that people treated her as if she should be watched over--even if she did work as hard as a woman half her age. Mavity wasn't a cat lover, but she and Dulcie were friends. She always stroked Dulcie and talked to her when she stopped by Wilma's; Mavity told Dulcie she was beautiful, that her chocolate-dark stripes were as lovely as mink, that Dulcie was a very special cat.
But the little lady had no idea how special. The truth would have terrified her. The notion that Dulcie had read (and found tedious) most of the stories that she, herself, was toting home tonight, would have shaken Mavity Flowers right down to her scruffy white oxfords.
Through the open front door, Dulcie watched Mavity hurry to the corner and turn beneath the yellow glow of the streetlamp to disappear down the dark side street into a tunnel of blackness beneath a double row of densely massed eucalyptus trees. But within the library, seven patrons still lingered.
And from the media room at the back, four more dawdlers appeared, their feet scuffing along inches from Dulcie's nose-- silk-clad ankles in stilted high heels, a boy's bony bare feet in leather sandals, a child's little white shoes and lace-ruffled white socks following Mama's worn loafers. And all of them as slow as cockroaches in molasses, stopping to examine the shelved booksand flip through the racked magazines. Dulcie, hunching against the carpet,sighed and closed her eyes. Dawdling was a cat's prerogative, humans didn't have the talent. Only a cat could perform that slow, malingering dance, the half-in-half-out-the-door routine, with the required insolence and grace.
She was not often so rude in her assessment of human frailties. During the daytime hours, she was a model of feline amenity, endlessly obliging to the library patrons, purring for them and smiling when the old folks and children petted and fussed over her, and she truly loved them. Being official library cat was deeply rewarding. And at home with Wilma she considered herself beautifully laid-back; she and Wilma had a lovely life together. But when night fell, when the dark winds shook the oaks and pines and rattled the eucalyptus leaves, her patina of civilization gave way and the ancient wildness rose in her, primitive passions took her--and a powerful and insatiable curiosity drove her. Now, eager to get on with her own agenda, she was stifled not only by lingering humans but was put off far more by the too-watchful gaze of the head librarian.
Jingling her keys, Freda Brackett paced before the circulation desk as sour-faced as a bad-tempered possum and as impatient for people to leave as was Dulcie herself--though for far different reasons. Freda couldn't wait to be free of the books and their related routines for a few hours, while Dulcie couldn't wait to get at the thousands of volumes, as eager as a child waiting to be alone in the candy store.
Freda had held the position of head librarian for two months. During that time, she had wasted not an ounce of love on the library and its contents, on the patrons, or on anyone or anything connected with thejob. But what could you expect of a political appointee?
The favorite niece of a city council member, Freda had been selected over several more desirable applicants among the library's own staff. Having come to Molena Point from a large and businesslike city library, she ran this small, cozy establishment in thesame way. Her only objective was to streamline operations until the Molena Point Library functioned as coldly and impersonally as the institution she had abandoned. In just two months the woman's rigid rules had eaten away at the warm, small-village atmosphere like a rat demolishing last night's cake.
"Of course I worry.
There's a new pair of thieves in MolenaPoint, California, a renegade yellow-eyedtomcat with a cold disdain for the law,and a scruffy human partner who isno better. The two, clever and silentat their work, are bad news indeedto crime-solving cats Joe Grey andDulcie. But when Joe learns the pair'sconnection to a good friend, and then an innocent couple turns up dead in the library garden, Joe and Dulcie must engage in some fancy paw work to unmask the deceptions and route the real killer — before his brazen criminal crime spree careens madly toward them.
"I'm a cat," said Dulcie. "Of course I worry, Joe. What if the cops set up a stake-out? What if they witness a cat opening a skylight and masterminding a robbery? The tabloids will love it. Every nut in the country will read about the trained burglar-cat. Or, heaven forbid, the talking cat. . . ."
There's a bad new cat in sleepy little Molena Point: a renegade tom with a penchant for robbery, a scorn for his fellow felines, and a disdain for human laws. And he's masterminding a crime spree that's quickly escalating toward murder most foul.
Dulcie and Joe Grey both know the score--they've seen Azrael in action. But how can they expose the criminal without letting ordinary, untrustworthy humans in on the secret that certain select cats can think, and talk? Cats like them . . .
About the Author
Shirley Rousseau Murphy is the author of Cat in the Dark, Cat on the Edge, Cat Under Fire, and Cat Raise the Dead, and has received five Council of Authors and Journalists Awards for previous books. She graduated from San Francisco Art Institute, has worked as a commercial artist and has exhibited paintings and sculptures extensively on the West Coast. She and her husband live in Carmel, California. Their cats have included a tom that twice warned them of burglars in the middle of the night by growling, and a cat that liked to ride horseback.
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