Miss Cuddlywumps reviews the story “A Case of Catnapping” by A.H.Z. Carr
“A Case of Catnapping” is the story of the abduction of Dizzy, a cat who lives with a vaudeville performer and is in fact the star of his act. Dizzy does things your average self-respecting cat would never do. She wears little boxing gloves and punches a punching bag, she jumps through hoops and does somersaults (that’s how she got her name), she dances. Audiences love this little gray tiger cat, and her person, Dave Knight, rarely lets her out of his sight, because Dizzy is pretty much all he has going for him.
When Dizzy disappears minutes before a performance, Knight is frantic and hires a private detective, offering to give up his entire savings—$5,000—if only the cat can be found. The detective, Jack Terry, takes the case, largely because he and his wife have seen Dizzy’s act and his wife would never forgive him if he didn’t help. So the detecting begins.
At first I suspected Knight’s fiancée, Maribeth, of doing something unfortunate to Dizzy, because she says this: “As if a cat—even Dizzy—should be allowed to decide how people should live their lives. Isn’t that ridiculous…?” (Really, life would be so much simpler for you humans if you would just do what your cats want—without delay or complaint.) But the detective quickly rules out Maribeth and sets his sights on other characters in the theater.
It’s interesting to see how Terry puts the case together, from one clue to the next. There’s a leprechaun (not a real one), a trapdoor, an open window, and a tell-tale cat scratch. Terry figures out who took Dizzy and why, but he still has not done the most important thing, and that is to locate her. To do this, he uses some old-fashioned cat psychology.
(She of Little Talent and I are big believers in cat psychology. Old SoLT once used this method to find her lost cat hiding outside under an overturned wheelbarrow. This was one of the proudest moments of her life. Poor old SoLT.)
Terry surmises that Dizzy has gone off to find a “boyfriend,” so all they need to do is locate an eligible tomcat and they will locate Dizzy. Personally I was not so sure Dizzy would shack up with the first tom she ran into, but I suppose she is more of a floozy than I thought, because the detective’s method works perfectly.
“A Case of Catnapping” is an enjoyable and interesting read, though there is nothing cozy about it. The story was written in 1954 and has a very 1950s feel—sort of noir-ish without being too dark. We don’t actually get to see much of Dizzy herself, but the people—especially Knight and Maribeth—are interesting. All in all, this is a captivating cat mystery, and so I give it…
[“A Case of Catnapping” has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (1954) and Abigail Browning’s book titled Feline Felonies (2001).]
[A.H.Z. Carr was actually an economist named Albert Zotaloff Carr. In addition to mystery stories, he wrote about politics and economics. He wrote just one novel, Finding Maubee, which was later adapted into a movie called The Mighty Quinn.]