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Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sleight-of-Paw in Vegas (or Murder, Mayhem, Magic & the Marvelous Moggies)


A vintage-attired, high-heel-clad little dynamo... a hunky ex-priest-cum-radio-personality superstar... a mysterious and rakish magician (in desperate need of finding his lost memories)... and one sleek-yet-stout, green-eyed, black-as-night feline... those four components can only mean one thing: it’s time for a return trip to Vegas, baby!

Hold the phone--and pack an extra bag--though, because this time out Midnight Louie is up to more than just his usual Sin City sleuthing-and-shenanigans; in Cat in a White Tie and Tails, he manages to squeeze in a visit to the Windy City, as well.

~^.,.^~   ~^.,.^~   ~^.,.^~

When suddenly-in-demand radio star Matt Devine receives yet another all-expenses-paid trip to Chi-town--where a group of network bigwigs will again attempt to cajole him into accepting their offer for a major TV gig--it seems like the perfect opportunity to knock out a pair of birds with one stone; he can take Temple Barr--plucky Vegas hotel PR consultant and his delightful fiancee--along for the ride, so she can meet his family. 

Of course, no outing would be complete without Temple’s real partner, the aforementioned ebony-furred Midnight Louie... which is how that twenty-pound fella finds himself encased in a chi-chi, leopard-printed “purse pooch” carryon, aboard a plane bound for the Midwest... far, far from The Strip he calls home. 

At first, things go... well, not-so-great, because while Matt (the ex-priest, remember) has plenty of baggage of his own, it’s nothing compared to the load of guilt his mother’s been lugging around for more than thirty years. And, wouldn’t you know it, just when some of her old family secrets start making their way out into the open--and putting the past to rest seems possible--everything goes to hell in the proverbial hand basket (or, in this case, in a pricey, designer cat carrier)... not because of the startling revelations, but because a couple of local thugs catnap Louie! (This, naturally, will not do!... but never fear, our Louie--former cat-of-the-streets--has proven time and again that he’s nothing if not resourceful, and the methods he uses to extricate himself from this latest predicament are a real hoot.) 

The surprises continue, when it turns out that the kerfuffle in Chicago ties in with a string of unsolved murders back in Vegas... each with some tie to magic.

And, speaking of magic, Temple’s ex-flame Max (he of the death-defying stunt which left him with a lot of broken bones and a seriously-bad case of amnesia) has been moonlighting for homicide detective C.R. Molina, using his knowledge of legerdemain to look into one of those very same cold cases (while Temple and Matt are off schmoozing, canoodling, and peacemaking in the heartland). If Max can somehow figure out what really happened, perhaps he can also clear his own name, once and for all, and stop the awful cycle of magic-related deaths.

The answers, however, have stubbornly eluded police thus far... and with mysterious ties linking past events to the Vegas mob, the IRA, a secret collective of magicians, a lost buried treasure, and an enormous jackpot to be given away in the next few days,  
unravelling the many clues will be anything but a walk in the park (or a stroll down The Strip, for that matter).

In fact, it will take every sleek black hair, twitching whisker, and sheathed talon on Midnight Louie’s magnificent body--as well as those of his cadre of feline relations and friends--to keep all of their humans (hopefully) alive and (mostly) whole...

~^.,.^~   ~^.,.^~   ~^.,.^~

Cat in a White Tie and Tails is the twenty-fourth(!) in Carole Nelson Douglas‘ prodigious series featuring Temple and Midnight Louie, and it’s another fine entry. (You can check out my review of the twenty-third book--when I first found the series last year--here.)

Although it’s part of a long-running storyline--a serialized one, at that, with the plots continuing from one book to the next--it is possible (if not quite ideal) to read it as a stand-alone, because Douglas provides both an introduction-slash-rehash of previous events as well as frequent commentary explaining things the reader may not remember (or, in my case, don’t know). So, aside from occasionally finding myself reading a passage back a second time, trying to catch the subtext of something dealt with in previous (as-yet-unread) books, I had little trouble eventually understanding the gist--which is important, because there’s rather a lot going on. 

The primary cast of (bipedal) characters isn’t all that large, but there’s definitely a lot of history to keep straight; the end result is a fun mash-up of the TV shows CSI and Vegas, with plenty of soap-operatics thrown in for spice.

It’s the furry cast of characters, though, wherein you find the real stars. As any true animal-lover can attest, our four-footed friends most definitely possess unique personalities, moods, abilities, and eccentricities setting them apart from each other, and Douglas clearly has a firm grasp on the delightful differences among felines. By turns clever, capable, affectionate, standoffish, proud, witty, agile, sleepy, or snarky (among others), Louie, Louise (who claims to be his long-haired daughter from a past fling), and the rest of the Vegas clowder shine whenever they’re on the page. (If it all sounds a little hokey, don’t worry; the majority of the story is still told from a human POV; the cats are there to provide a neat bit of fun, and to suss out things in ways that only animals can.) 

Combining the glitz and glamor of Vegas with the seamy underbelly that visitors rarely get to see--while proving that cats really are as smart as we’ve always thought--Cat in a White Tie and Tails is a sure bet for mystery fans with an appreciation for felines. 

GlamKitty Catnip Mousie Ratings:  For Connoisseurs of Intricate, International Mysteries... & Fabulous Felines