Sunday, December 09, 2012

Sandie's Corner - Cat Bearing Gifts by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

It's been a while, but I'm always glad to have one of Sandie Herron's posts. So, settle in and enjoy Sandie's review of Shirley Rousseau Murphy's latest mystery, Cat Bearing Gifts.

CAT BEARING GIFTS                                     
By Shirley Rousseau Murphy
William Morrow, 2012 (11/20/12)

I’ve been a fan of this series for quite some time, and it never ceases to amaze me how Shirley Rousseau Murphy has introduced the entire population of Molena Point, California with the focus on a different person, cat, or group with each book.  Each introduction comes just when we need to learn more about them.

For instance, Kate Osborne is in San Francisco after being away from Molena Point for years.  She has a special ability and wanted to research her family tree and visit where she had grown up, unfortunately falling to ruins now.  She salvaged what she could and hid her treasures in the doors and body of the new town car owned by Pedric and Lucinda Greenlaw. The Greenlaws had packed the inside of the town car with all the treasurers they had purchased on their trip to San Francisco, including “packing” Kit, their cat, making the car worth millions.  

There is one important thing it is advisable to do for full enjoyment of these fabulous books, one thing that in Mrs. Murphy’s hands seems perfectly plausible:  suspend any disbelief you might have over cats being sentient beings who can talk and understand human speech.  The series has grown to 18 books, and Joe Grey and Dulcie have been joined by Kit and then Misto and his son Pan.  These cats are intelligent and have all come to help the police department with their sleuthing in places and at times humans just can’t go.

Two old buddies – Victor Amson and Birely – just ran into each other in Molena Point, where Birely’s sister Sammie had been killed, and recently her body was found buried below her own house!  Birely was angry because Sammie did not leave Birely her house in her Will but left it to a woman left homeless by The Great Recession.  Birely was especially mad because their uncle had sent Sammie her share of some long ago stolen government bonds and cash, but no one knew where she hid them.  Not trusting banks, Birely was certain Sammie had the money hidden at home, and the two men decide to try and find it.  The property had three small cottages, so they started in the oldest shack not occupied. 

After a week of searching, Vic and Birely went north to sell a few items.  Pleased with their take, they head back to Molena Point via the Pacific Coast Highway, a curving two-lane road high up from the ocean with no guard rail to protect them from plunging into the sea.  Ahead of them, a town car is traveling too slowly, and behind them a delivery truck is driving too fast, ultimately passing their pickup.  The three vehicles crash into each other; the delivery truck smashed into the cliff, killing the driver and causing the cliff to crumble.  Pedric drove past the trucks, stopping just past the rocks on the road.  Vic and Birely were pinned in their pickup. 
With no one moving, Vic broke his window and pulled himself out of the pickup.  He approached Pedric with a tire iron, which Pedric noticed at his side.  Vic swung at Pedric, landing a blow to the head, knocking him down, bleeding profusely.  Lucinda struggled out of the town car.  She swung at Vic with a large flashlight, but Vic hit Lucinda in what might be a broken shoulder.  Birely, with his own head wound, got out of the pickup, and the two drifters took off in the town car, leaving Lucinda, Pedric, and a scared but unhurt Kit on the road to wait for help.  Kit went back and forth between them, comforting each one until sirens signaled the arrival of help.  Kit knew they’d never let her into their vehicles, and she took off up the cliff, dragging Lucinda’s cell phone with her.  It slowed her, but she had heard coyotes, and needed to rescue herself before bull dozers arrived to repair the road. 

Once Kit found a small hole to hide in, she called Clyde and Ryan to come find her.  They packed up quickly, bringing their Weimaraner, Joe, and Pan.  Arriving at the scene, they were all shocked to see the condition of the road, the vehicles, the people, but there was no cat. 

This is one of those books you want to read slowly so it won’t end.  I found it highly entertaining.  Many parts were sad, some made me mad, yet many made me smile, and I even had a tear or few drip from the corner of my eyes.  It was nice to find out where Kate had been and how her travels went.  While this book did not seem to have a slew of subplots, it actually did.  The entire series has led up to many of the exchanges between residents, young and old, new and old-timers.  Yet Mrs. Murphy made them clear to the beginner or veteran to the series.  If one wanted to read something to get into the series before this book #18, I think I would suggest #17, CAT TELLING TALES, the just previous book which introduces Sammie and her family.  It isn’t necessary, but it would explain a few things that happen in this book.  Many people can be daunted by a series with 18 books in it, thinking they could never catch up from the beginning and if they didn’t read the entire series, they wouldn’t understand or enjoy the current books.  Not so for Mrs. Murphy.  Her writing is exceptional in bringing you just what you need to know at the right moment.  You won’t need a cast list or a cheat sheet.  So close your eyes, and plunge right in.  You are sure to enjoy whatever title in this series you choose.

Highly recommended.


Anonymous said...

Have read every book in this series, and eagerly await the release of each new installment! The very day the latest is released - it goes straight to my Kindle. I try to stretch out the reading to make it last, but I think two or three days has been the longest I can stand to dole out the story...

Ms. Murphy brings her characters to life, both human and feline, in the most delightful way. The reader cannot help but care for the residents of Molina Point, all species of them. Joe, Dulcie, Kit, Pan, and Misto keep us rooting for the sentient animals - as well as touch that lingering hope we all seem to retain from childhood. What IF, we ask ourselves, WHAT IF they could actually speak?!??

- Nancy G.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for you comments on Mrs. Murphy's newest book. I never had any trouble with the anthropomorphisms in her books, but I never really thought about my own cats speakig vocally. They already speak to me via their tails, eyes, ears, body posture, and they do actually speak in catisms. Would't it be nice when they're in distress or sick if they really could talk to us so we could care for them properly?