My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I hate rating things low. Generally I stop reading them if I'm not enjoying them but I needed it for a challenge otherwise, yeah, this wasn't for me. I didn't mind that they were anthropomorphized cats out to solve a mystery. I didn't even really need to be told they must have opposable thumbs but honestly the world building here was poor. I felt like this was England in the 50s in some places, 70s in the others (TVs in homes were rare and one character has no idea what a VHS machine was and couldn't understand video tapes). For that matter, the character development was poor too, especially in the main character. Hettie is a cat somewhat down on her luck (it isn't until nearly the end of the book that we learn what she used to do) who is helping Tilly who is an old cat who was homeless but we end up learning more about Tilly than Hettie other than Hettie isn't very likeable. I have no idea why has decided to become a detective. She doesn't want to do the work and doesn't seem to like it and at one point said they got the idea from TIlly's detective fiction obsession.
It's obviously a nod to Alexander McCall Smith's work done as cats. Hettie gets her first case via her friend Marley Toke who's a cook at an upscale retirement community where bodies have been snatched from the community's graveyard. Hettie has to find the bodies (which is done surprisingly easily) and then who did the deed and why. There was like three separate 'solves' as the layers were peeled back.
The good of the story. The mystery was decent but creepy. I liked the tender moments when the ladies splurged with their new found cash.
The bad, in addition to what I've already mentioned is the wince worthy Marley Toke and the Siamese cat cameo. I don't think it was malicious racism so much as clueless but still. The Siamese cat's few lines had the Asian's can't say Ls and Rs thing and Marley is a Black cat from Jamaica who is all about the catnip (nudge, wink) and speaks pigeon English. This doesn't seem to be a self published book so was there no editor looking at this going whoa, this is such a bad stereotype? It wouldn't have been half as bad if it was just stated Marley had a Jamaican accent and maybe lay off all the toking in jokes. But the ending double downs on the casual racism when Marley is offered a place to set up her own shop but turns it down so she can be a house servant....
And the endings, both the mystery of the missing bodies and the issues between the nursing home owner and her sister, the nurse at said home, were rather bad. Especially the last scenes were Hettie Tilly and the rest literally look past a murder because the person 'deserved it' (or at least that's my take away) no one in this seemed put out by the various dead bodies lying around. This just didn't work for me.
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