A note about The Cuddlywumps Chronicles

This blog is written and maintained by Miss Cuddlywumps, a fluffy-tailed calico cat who is both classically educated and familiar with mysteries. She receives creative input from the Real Cats and clerical assistance from She of Little Talent (old SoLT, a.k.a. Roby Sweet). Comments or complaints should be addressed to Miss C rather than to old SoLt (Ms. Sweet). Ms. Sweet accepts no responsibility for Miss C's opinions.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Book Review: Into the Grey

There are a few cat-themed mystery series that we have been dying to read and review, and Clea Simon’s Dulcie Schwartz mysteries have been right at the top of the list. I am very pleased to report that we have finally gotten a chance to read one of these books, and the wait was worth it.

The story

When a book begins with a line like “I could kill so-and-so,” you sort of know where the plot is headed, at least initially. This is the line uttered by Dulcie Schwartz, only with “Roland Fenderby” in place of “so-and-so.” Fenderby is a rather gross academic who can’t seem to keep his hands off the young ladies and who has recently insinuated himself onto Dulcie’s dissertation committee, where she most certainly does not want him. Dulcie is in the cauldron of finishing her dissertation when this Fenderby fellow has the audacity to criticize her work as being “a tad shallow.” And then he has the audacity to get himself murdered in a way that could suggest that Dulcie is the killer. The nerve of some people.

With Fenderby’s untimely death, Dulcie is off on a quest to identify which of various disaffected people killed him. Not everyone is happy about her insistence on investigating—the police, for example, and her boyfriend, Chris. Dulcie is also visited often by the spirit of her deceased cat, Mr. Grey, who provides advice that is a little less clear than she needs it to be. She also has a living feline, Esmé, a lively tuxedo cat who gives the book a pleasing feline presence.

As she goes about her amateur sleuthing, Dulcie also carries on with her academic research. She could be on the verge of an important discovery in the crucial box of literary fragments Fenderby had sequestered so Dulcie couldn’t consult them any longer. No one knows why he would set those items so deliberately out of Dulcie’s reach, but now that he’s out of the way…

Dulcie gets pulled in many directions in this book—between her own impulses, her friends’ advice, Chris, the police, Mr. Grey… There is no clear direction for her, although we’re pretty sure that whatever Dulcie thinks she should do is probably wrong. And she will no doubt get herself into all kinds of trouble, and possibly danger.

The verdict

As I said earlier, we have been wanting to get into this series, and we are so glad we finally made time for it. We loved the complexity of the plot, and we loved all those many moments we found ourselves saying “No! Don’t do that!” when Dulcie was about to get into some sort of trouble. How this woman has managed to stay alive and out of prison, we are not entirely sure. Grey is so appropriate for this story, in which Dulcie faces so much uncertainty and none of her dilemmas are black and white. We also enjoyed going along with her on her academic quest in the depths of the library. What fun! While Into the Grey can be enjoyed on its own, we are trying to devise a way to set aside time to pick up the series from its beginning, because we feel like we’ve missed a lot and we want to find out more about this Dulcie Schwartz and her feline companions.

If you are not into academic research, if you don’t get all tingly over the possibility of discovering some new little thing in a box of old papers, then this might not be the series for you. But if you do feel a shiver over the prospect of poring over obscure documents, if part of you salivates over all the things you could learn if only you had time for grad school, and if you can’t imagine learning anything without a wise feline as your guide…then you should dive in to the Dulcie Schwartz series.

Highly recommended!

A note on the "Paws Up" system: Miss C gives either one or two paws up. One paw is for a good read; two paws is for a great read. She never gives three or four paws because that would require her to lie on her back...and Miss C does not do that!

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