By Paula Tutman
A-litter-ation best defines the latest book by Carole Nelson Douglas,Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme.
Midnight Louie makes a triumphant return in the 22nd book in the series about a Private Investigator of the feline-domesticus variety who shows us that cats are far more clever than people, especially when it comes to ratting out crime and wrong-doing.
If you’re new to the series and you’re wondering how on earth a cat can nip crime as a super sleuth, Carole has always been ahead of her time.
She penned the eight acclaimed Irene Adler Sherlockian thrillers before Robert Downey, Jr., met the lady on screen in his hot new Sherlock Holmes film franchise. She foresaw the sunrise of vampires, creating the Delilah Street noir urban fantasy series five years ago–long before Twilight! With the magic of Midnight Louie, she’s struck absolute literary gold. I mean, think about it–this series has more lives than Felix, Garfield, Morris and the Cheshire combined–and the hordes are still hungry for it–certainly in part because Douglas has proven once again that murder doesn’t have to be such dead serious business.
And get this, Midnight Louie is no fly-by-night character. He has easily 115 minutes of fame. Carole tells me, Cat Fancy magazine’s recent feature on 45 top fictional cats put Midnight Louie at number 16, ahead of The Cat in the Hat, Joe Gray, Koko and Yum Yum, and Hello Kitty, among others.
The thrill in this thriller series comes from the imaginative voice of the characters, hilariously bumbling their way through the plot lines. And speaking of plots, they are numerous in Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme. There are plots on plots, subplots, nano-plots and continuing plots-all of which lead to the cemetery plot.
As usual, the novel is three dimensional in the way it tells the story of murder and mayhem from several different points of view. “It’s written like a three-year ensemble-cast TV series featuring two pro and two amateur human mystery solvers as well as Louie’s secret investigations in the animal underworld,” says Carole. “The international counterterrorism subplot that goes back twenty years in one character’s life is erupting in attempted murder, flight, and a shoot-out in Belfast. This is not your grandmother’s ‘fluffy cat mystery’ series.”
Louie’s pet human, Temple Barr is a tough-minded PR lady and amateur sleuth who’s reveling in a new engagement, even though she still harbors feelings for her ex-fiancé, or is he an ex? Max the magician was killed, or was he killed? Or did he just execute a convincing disappearing act by making it look like an execution to hide his counterterrorism work?
Hmmmm, deliciously written to leave intrigue on the whiskers of even the most finicky reader.
Temple’s current fiancé belongs in a temple, an ex-priest who’s trying to negotiate a little purgatory for being defrocked by his ladylove who insists on trying on the shoes before she buys them. Or is she his ladylove?
It starts off in Vegas-sweltering hot on the outside-but the economy has cooled things off on the inside. And when people aren’t making money in sin city, they come up with sinfully desperate ideas to do desperately sinful things. When Temple Barr’s fiancé, ex-priest, Matt, leaves for a business trip to Chicago, the plucky PR expert has her hands full promoting the controversial creation of a “mob” museum under two Vegas Strip hotels while also dealing with a murder-it’s going to take real talent to spin that one to the public. “The combo of vintage and contemporary crime gets the black tails of feline PI, Midnight Louie and his Vegas ‘Cat Pack’ on the tangled trail of murders and conspiracies old and new,” describes Carole.
Vanilla is a person, not a flavor-so it stands to reason, she’s not very sweet. She’s suspiciously contrite to her well-off husband, Nicky, who’s trying to save his dying casino business. He comes up with the hare-brained scheme to save the works, and he wants Temple to make it fly.
The book is rife with snappy dialogue, quirky characters and furr-ific antics that serve up genuine deception along with chuckles.
At first, it’s hard to tell who’s the bad guy and who’s the good guy, it’s a mess only a good cat can figure out. Carole dishes, saying, “In Ultramarine, allies and antagonists are morphing into
each other as events heat up, with the Barbie Doll Killer and a terrorist assassin from Europe both making deadly personal appearances in everybody’s lives.”
Humans! So many complications-not enough lives.
A lot of the fun happens when we read Louie’s POV. He speaks in cat-onese, so to speak. His voice reminds me a bit of the chorus in Shakespeare, like the witches chanting over the cauldron, foreshadowing what has happened, and what will happen next. When Louie speaks, everyone listens. He makes sure you don’t miss the important stuff or the nuance. Among my favorite Louie passages, “I tell you, being a superhero of your species is very frustrating work,” and, “My Miss Temple approaches on her hind claws, aka spike heels, and bends to pick up the trash. Humans, even the best of them, are hard to figure sometimes.”
The voice is distinctively cat-like in an “Everything here is mine” and “What time is dinner” sort of way. Carole explains, “(Louie’s) voice is part Damon Runyon and generic gumshoe and all cat. He’s both a homage to and a critique of that huge American contribution to mystery, the hard-boiled private eye,” Carole purrs. “I have always combined reality and fantasy.”
And just to keep things even more interesting, the counterpart to Midnight Louie is Midnight Louise, the female-feline-domesticus also nursing a hard case of private-eye-itis and human-envy.
Carole continues channeling her inner journalist. Having started her writing career in the species of reporter-domesticus, she honed her PhD in people with keen powers of observation. Aspects of many of those characters and their causes play out in her novels. “I interviewed some of the top artists in their fields: acting, music, dance, writing. I was in a pioneer position at the newspaper, covering women’s issues and the arts, and I do find that social issues drive my plots.” She continues, “A bit of the crusading journalist is still there. The Irish ‘troubles’ and the Catholic church abuse scandal both play intoUltramarine Scheme,” published by Forge Books and released August, 2010.
And just in case you were wondering if Midnight Louie will make it to book 23 and beyond, Carole confides she’s already hard at work on the next installment, Cat in a Vegas Gold Vendetta.
But Carole isn’t just a purr-lific author. She and her alter-ego, Louie have an important message for readers. “Neuter your pets, please! Life on the street is hell for animals, too.”
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