Authors frequently let their pet causes creep into their writing. How affective it is depends on how well the author’s crusade matches the readers’ interest in and feelings about the issue. For some, it’s a ploy that can certainly backfire. But assuming that most, if not all of the readers of the Joe Grey series by Shirley Rousseau Murphy are cat lovers, it stands to reason that those readers would be interested not only in a great story, but learning a bit about the plight of some abandoned cats and efforts being taken to help them. It is with such a cause that Cat Telling Tales, the eighteenth book in the series opens.
Molina Point, home to the extraordinary talking cats Joe Grey, Dulcie, Kit and most recently the big orange tom cat Misto, has developed a serious feral cat problem. As the economy worsens, people have been forced out of their homes and have left their cats behind to fend for themselves. While the characters in the book deal with the true feral cats and the former house pets that don’t know how to survive on their own, the author intersperses actual cat agencies and rescue groups into the mix giving readers an eye opening account of the depth of the problem in this country while highlighting the efforts being made to end it. She easily weaves into the story tales of strays being caught and released in warehouses and police stations to control the rodent problem. She describes the various groups who catch, spay and neuter the cats and then release them. And by having the characters in the book care for the abandoned and feral cat population by feeding them and leaving them fresh water each day, she is not only tipping her hat to the countless volunteers across the country doing the same, but also urging others to join in the cause.
But there is more to this book than a crusade for cat causes. First, there is yet another new cat in town. In this book, readers are introduced to Pan, another cat to drift down the coast. Also, the band of cats have a new case to solve. There are several puzzling occurrences in town that the cats investigate. Debbie Kraft and her two children return to Molina Point from Oregon. Since she claims to be afraid of her ex-husband, it seems odd that she would choose to come home to the very town where he is a partner in a real estate firm. A house fire leaves a burnt body behind leaving a young boy an orphan. And most puzzling perhaps, people seem to be going missing. A warning though, while the crime itself is solved by the end, the conclusion of the book leaves many personal issues among the characters (both human and feline) hanging. So be prepared to wait presumably another year to see what happens next.
Cat Telling Tales is probably one of the better plotted books in the series while rising to a new level with a strong effort to make readers aware of a societal issue affecting homeless cats.