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The Cat Saw Murder (1939)

by Dolores Hitchens

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362581,197 (3.67)27
When Rachel Murdock and her sister Jennifer receive a call for help from their favorite niece, Lilly, in Breakers Beach, CA, they quickly hop a train from Los Angeles to see her - but not before collecting their prized cat Samantha in a picnic basket and bringing her along for the ride. Samatha, it turns out, is an heiress, the inheritor of a fortune left by a wealthy relative, and so the attempt at the cat's life, made right after they arrive, comes as a shock. The cat survives, but unfortunately, Lilly, murdered soon thereafter, is not so lucky. By the time the police arrive, the clues are already falling into place. The source of Lilly's trouble is revealed to be a gambling debt incurred during an attempt to cheat at bridge, and the suspects in her slaying quickly pile up. But then another corpse is discovered, buried in the nearby sand, and it becomes clear that the killing spree concerns more than just the young lady's personal money trouble. With the authorities distracted by lurid details, it's up to Rachel and her furry friend to uncover the subtleties containing the solution to the puzzle. A prototypical early "cat mystery," written before the subgenre became a staple of cozy mystery fiction, The Cat Saw Murder is an entertaining and endlessly surprising whodunit with a focus on felines. Reissued for the first time in over half a decade, the book, written pseudonymously by the author better known for her hardboiled and suspense novels, is the first in the long-running Rachel Murdock series. Includes discussion guide questions for use in book clubs.… (more)
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I have no idea as to what a cat cozy mystery is, this is the first one I ever read, and apparently the one that started a sub genre. I enjoyed the mystery overall, and the writing was pretty engaging. There were times I could have used less description but that's a personal preference, and doesn't necessarily distract from the book. I didn't give this a five star review because there were points where I started to lose track of the characters. There were a lot of them and they weren't so distinct that I was able to immediately connect who was who between reading sessions. The reveal of the murderer in the end also seemed a little more left field than I prefer.

Miss Rachel and Mayhew have an odd sort of camaraderie that I can't quite get a handle on, and I wonder if this being the first in a series has something to do with that. Miss Rachel herself is a well realized character overall, and I think that Mayhew is also pretty well drawn in the mind. But if you expect the cat to be more of a personality I'm going to have to disappoint you. Samantha has a character, but it's not more than I'd expect of any cat and there are chapters where she isn't mentioned, let alone appearing. I think, if you like old mysteries, these characters are more likely to appeal to you, and the mystery itself will be interesting. It's dated, but not in a way that takes it too far from what an American would be familiar with. I enjoyed reading it, and I don't regret doing so. I'll probably even see if I can scrounge up the sequel. ( )
  potds1011 | Feb 28, 2022 |
Rachel and Jennifer Murdock are custodians of a cat who is the heir to a fortune left by one of their relatives. When Rachel travels to the aid of her niece, Lily, and brings the cat along, things quickly turn dramatic. An attempt is made on the life of Samantha, the cat; a successful attempt is made on the life of Lily. Much to the disapproval of Jennifer, Rachel ends up conducting her own amateur detective work.

This is one of the very first “cat mysteries”, but unlike some of the modern cat mysteries, this cat is not possessed of superpowers or ESP; it just happened to be in the same room as a murder. Miss Rachel was the one doing the sleuthing. Given that Rachel is a senior-citizen protagonist, it was really like “if Miss Marple had a cat”, so if you are normally allergic to cat cozies, you may be OK with this one. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 28, 2021 |
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Detective Lieutenant Stephen Mayhew has been heard to complain that the murder of the Sticklemann woman was the damnedest case that he ever met up with; that solving the thing was like working a jigsaw puzzle upside down and backwards; that it got progressively worse as it dragged along; and that it set him at such insane tasks as pulling hairs out of Miss Rachel's cat and forcing a timid fat woman to scream.
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When Rachel Murdock and her sister Jennifer receive a call for help from their favorite niece, Lilly, in Breakers Beach, CA, they quickly hop a train from Los Angeles to see her - but not before collecting their prized cat Samantha in a picnic basket and bringing her along for the ride. Samatha, it turns out, is an heiress, the inheritor of a fortune left by a wealthy relative, and so the attempt at the cat's life, made right after they arrive, comes as a shock. The cat survives, but unfortunately, Lilly, murdered soon thereafter, is not so lucky. By the time the police arrive, the clues are already falling into place. The source of Lilly's trouble is revealed to be a gambling debt incurred during an attempt to cheat at bridge, and the suspects in her slaying quickly pile up. But then another corpse is discovered, buried in the nearby sand, and it becomes clear that the killing spree concerns more than just the young lady's personal money trouble. With the authorities distracted by lurid details, it's up to Rachel and her furry friend to uncover the subtleties containing the solution to the puzzle. A prototypical early "cat mystery," written before the subgenre became a staple of cozy mystery fiction, The Cat Saw Murder is an entertaining and endlessly surprising whodunit with a focus on felines. Reissued for the first time in over half a decade, the book, written pseudonymously by the author better known for her hardboiled and suspense novels, is the first in the long-running Rachel Murdock series. Includes discussion guide questions for use in book clubs.

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