Miss Cuddlywumps reviews Catwalk by Sheila Webster Boneham
Catwalk is the kind of richly detailed, well-crafted mystery that is hard to put down. It is the story of one Janet McPhail, a professional photographer who focuses mostly on animals and works with her dog and cat in agility training in her spare time. It is also the story of one Charles Rasmussen, all-around despicable human being who seems to have made a hobby out of bringing stress and misery to others’ lives. I am not spoiling the plot at all by telling you that Rasmussen is murdered in the middle of the book.
But let’s start at the start.
The story opens when Alberta Shofelter calls Janet in a panic over a lost, or kidnapped, cat. Janet takes her Australian shepherd, Jay, out to try to find this cat, who happens to be pregnant. The cat is a beautiful calico named Gypsy who was a feral until Alberta recently took her in. They do find her—and her brand-new kittens—in an “artist’s studio” belonging to that Charles Rasmussen whom you will quickly come to dislike.
We do not know who pooped in Rasmussen’s corn flakes to make him so hateful, but he certainly seems to be motivated entirely by ill-will. This man even hates kittens, and there is just something wrong with anyone like that. He also is not averse to abusing his wife. Oh, and he wants to “improve” a local wetland by developing it. I could go on. And on. But let’s cut to the chase and say that Charles Rasmussen was widely despised for some very good reasons.
So it is no surprise, really, when his body is discovered in the tunnel on a canine agility course. You know it’s coming, but that is okay because Boneham has created such a sense of foreboding in the preceding chapters, with Rasmussen’s actions and everyone’s hatred of him building to this morning when all the dogs mysteriously have trouble getting through the agility tunnel. You know right away it’s because Rasmussen’s body is in there, and you savor that knowledge because you know he won’t be causing anyone any trouble anymore. Now the question is, who killed him?
I won’t tell you more about the plot except to say that there are many suspects, including Alberta, Janet, and her love interest, Tom. I will also tell you that this mystery has a conclusion we did not see coming—at all—but that was satisfying.
And now I will tell you about Janet’s orange tabby named Leo—or “Catman,” as Janet sometimes calls him (sounds sort of super-hero-ish, doesn’t it?). Leo is a cat among cats. Or perhaps he is better described as a cat who runs with dogs. He seems to operate on the principle of “anything dogs can do, I can do better,” and in that spirit he learned to do feline agility by watching Jay the Australian shepherd train on the canine equipment. We loved Leo for his spunky attitude and his willingness to just be his own cat. A truly enjoyable feline character.
We raced to the end of Catalk, but then we were sorry it was over, because the book is just that good. Boneham’s writing is a joy to read, and the story is rich with depth and detail. Every character, even those with more minor roles, is drawn with attention and care. The plot and pacing are excellent, and the mystery’s solution was a complete surprise to us.
Very highly recommended!