By Cathy Clamp
Thefts . . . vandalism . . . murder. Toss in an overly curious reporter and a suspicious cop, then spice things up with a talented, clever woman and a psychic cat and you get the beginning of a great new series. Veteran mystery writer Carolyn Hart has created a terrific new series that readers are going to love. THE BIG THRILL sat down with the author, who has multiple AGATHA, ANTHONY and MACAVITY awards to her credit (along with a RIDLEY PEARSON AWARD for significant contribution to the mystery field!) to find out more about this great new series debut:
This is the first of a new series for you. For readers who may not have read your other books, how would you catagorize it?
WHAT THE CAT SAW is a suspense novel.
Tell us a little more about the book and characters.
After the death of her fiance in Afghanistan, Nela Farley feels an eerie connection when she looks into the eyes of a cat. She convinces herself she is simply avoiding painful memories, but one night she looks into the eyes of a cat and learns more than it is safe for her to know.
When Nela first arrives at a garage apartment in a small town in Oklahoma, she is greeted by a grieving brown tabby. She looks in his eyes and is bewildered by his thoughts: She didn’t see the rolling board on the step. That night an intruder breaks in, leaving behind wanton destruction. Nela learns that the woman who lived in the apartment had died in a fall down the apartment stairs.
Nela’s flaky sister Chloe is always fun and often in need of a sisterly boost. Nela is a reporter looking for work. She agrees to take Chloe’s place at her job so Chloe and her boyfriend can take advantage of a free trip to Tahiti. The Oklahoma landscape is strange to Nela and she finds even stranger the current of hostility at the workplace, a charitable foundation beset with troubles: Arson of an employee’s car, destruction of Indian artifacts, vandalism in the courtyard, obscene material mailed on the foundation letterhead, and the late revelation of the theft of a quarter million dollar diamond necklace.
The police detective is a smart, tough woman who sees the stranger in town as an accomplice to her sister in a clever scheme to hide a theft. The local newspaper reporter Steve Flynn knows the cop well, respects her, but finds the new woman in town intriguing. Steve is struggling to recover from an unhappy divorce. Nela had hoped to leave sadness behind in California but finds that she is still burdened by grief. An LA girl she is stirred by Steve’s loyalty and love for his hometown – and by Steve.
Nela plunges into an effort to clear her name and her sister’s, but the net draws ever tighter and then the cat warns once again, “. . .danger . . .”
Mysteries and cats just seem to go together. For fans of Koko in the “Cat Who…” books and the “Midnight Louie” series, what will readers love about the new feline sleuth, Jugs?
Jugs is a cat who observes and notices. When Nela looks at him, she has a sense of his thoughts at the moment. He is not a sleuth but his thoughts and emotions – and yes, cats have emotions – are a reflection of what he has seen. The truth that readers should carry away is the fact that you can never fool a cat.
Do you have a planned number of books in this series, or is the well of mysteries in your mind wonderfully bottomless?
I have an idea for another Nela and Steve book but the vagaries of publishing will rule. I have also promised my publisher the 24th Death on Demand title and the 5th Bailey Ruth. Time will tell.
Is there anything interesting or unusual you learned while researching the book, whether or not it actually made it onto the pages?
Absolutely! Here are a few interesting facts:
*Cats hear at 17 times the range for humans. That’s why your cat is waiting at the door when you come home, hearing the sound of the car motor or familiar steps.
*During the California Gold Rush, miners paid $50 for cats guaranteed to be good mousers.
*The most popular purebred cat in America is the Persian.
*There is an ancient Egyptian warning: Do Not Laugh at a Cat.
None of that appeared in the book because when I first researched, I was thinking about a story set in a Cat Spa and instead ended up writing a suspense novel. Go figure!
Will you be doing a signing tour for the release, or where can readers go if they want to get an autographed copy? Will you be attending any conventions or conferences?
I’m not touring for this book, but anyone wanting a signed copy can contact me through my website and I will give them a snail address and will return the signed book.
Where can readers find you online? (Website, Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
My website. I think it is the same for Facebook. I haven’t aspired to Twitter yet.
Anything else you’d like the readers to know about you or the book?
I would like to share news of CRY IN THE NIGHT, a never-before-published suspense novel released by Berkley as an e-book only on September 12. In 1982, young museum curator Sheila Ramsay goes to Mexico City on a romantic whim and is caught up in a life-and-death search for missing gold.
Out now from Oconee Spirit Press is FLEE FROM THE PAST, a reissue of a suspense novel. Jenny Hamilton cannot escape the deadly secret in her past.
In November, Seventh Street Books will reprint SKULDUGGERY, an early suspense novel set in Chinatown. A desperate search for the long hidden Peking Man bones brings danger, death and difficult choices for anthropologist Ellen Christie.
In February, Seventh Street Books will reprint THE DEVEREAUX LEGACY, romantic suspense. Leah Devereaux returns to her ancestral home in South Carolina to find her name on a gravestone.
And coming out new in May 2013 from Berkley: DEAD, WHITE AND BLUE, 23rd in the Death on Demand series and my 50th book to be published.
Seventh Street Books will reprint ESCAPE FROM PARIS, a WWII suspense novel, in June. Two American sisters in Occupied Paris help a Nritish airman escape and the Gestapo is only a step behind.
Seventh Street Books will reprint BRAVE HEARTS, a WWII novel of love and loss as the Japanese invade the Philippines.
And coming out new in October 2013, HIJACKED GHOST, 4th in the Bailey Ruth series.
And you now shout, “Enough, already!”
Never! Thriller readers are always happy to hear more about upcoming books and old favorites. All of them sound like great reads. Thanks for sharing.
Carolyn Hart is the author of 48 mysteries, the most recent a Berkley e-book publication of a never-before-published suspense novel, CRY IN THE NIGHT, and DEATH COMES SILENTLY, 22ND in the Death on Demand series.
To learn more about Carolyn, please visit her website.