Miss Cuddlywumps reviews “Five Starving Cats and a Dead Dog” by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
“Five Starving Cats and a Dead Dog” is a story as creepy as its title suggests. It opens mysteriously with an orange cat running to hide and a woman reaching for a rifle whenever anyone approaches their remote home in the logging country of the Pacific Northwest. Now you might wonder why they have such neurotic reactions. I am here to tell you that they have their reasons.
This woman and her husband had planned an idyllic life. They’d sold their company and retired young, then found this big old house for sale at a price far above its worth. That high price should have been a clue, you might think, but the couple had the money and wanted the house, so they bought it.
Then they found the house’s cats, five of them, all expensive purebreds, and all starving. At first the cats wanted nothing to do with the husband—or any other man—but the woman formed a close bond with an orange kitten she called Grubby. The state of the cats was weird and unnerving enough, but that turned out to be nothing compared to the dog.
The dog (as the title says) was dead. The woman found its skull atop a half-dug grave. She showed her husband and he intended to bury it, but it was getting dark that evening and so they walked away and forgot it, until they happened to ask a fireman about it.
That was a big mistake. One night the woman, her husband, and Grubby all find out exactly how big a mistake it was when they get a visit from the house’s former owner. The story ends with the husband shot, Grubby and the woman terrified, and the former owner gone. Maybe he’s dead, but then again.…
Kristine Kathryn Rusch does not write cozy mysteries. I think the title of this story probably clued you in on the grittier nature of this particular tale. But if you are up for something gritty, you should give “Five Starving Cats and a Dead Dog” a try. It is a quick read, well written (as we have come to expect from Rusch), and maintains a heavy atmosphere of something-very-wrong-here from its first word to its last.
I give this story a very creeped-out