Clea Simon is the author of fifteen mysteries in three series, two of which – the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries and the Pru Marlowe pet noir – are ongoing. Her most recent books are Grey Howl, the seventh Dulcie Schwartz feline mystery, and Panthers Play for Keeps, the fourth Pru Marlowe pet noir. Learn more about Clea and her books at her website.
I’m thrilled to be a guest on Killer Crafts and Cozies, but I’m afraid I’ve got a problem. You see, I write what are nominally cozies – the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries certainly are, although my Pru Marlowe pet noir mysteries have a bit more edge – but they contain neither crafts nor recipes. Don’t get me wrong, my characters like to eat (well, Dulcie does – Pru prefers to drink). And they all have special skills: Dulcie is a graduate student, so she’s an ace at any research you would like her to do, particularly if it involves a late 18th Century manuscript. And Pru is great with animals – though the fact that she can understand what they are thinking, how they see the world, does give her an unfair advantage. But neither of my heroines are handy with a needle and thread or shears or trowel, nor do they share recipes.
What both Dulcie and Pru share is a love for the animals in their lives, particularly their cats. And so it seemed like maybe I could put that to use – maybe craft a cat toy for my own Musetta, one my fictional feline companions (Dulcie’s rambunctious tuxedo cat Esmé and Pru’s curmudgeonly tabby Wallis) would also enjoy.
I’d like to say that I got out my scrap bag and sewing kit. That I whipped together a little mouse-shaped figurine, stuffed it with catnip, and let the hijinks begin. Only it didn’t work that way. For starters, for reasons I can no longer remember, it seems I have been hoarding ribbon as well as cloth in the scrap bag, and between that and the loose threads, the bag was such a tangled mess that I barely managed to extract one decent-sized piece of denim before shoving the rest of the mess to one side of the kitchen table. Then I discovered that someone – I’m not saying who – appears to have chewed through a corner of the bag of high-test organic catnip that my gardener friend Tinuviel sent me from her yard in Maine, leaving me with less than a tablespoon of the herb. Potent or not, that’s not enough to stuff a mouse. Also, new glasses or not, threading a needle has gotten harder with time. Wasn’t the point of aging that my horrible nearsightedness would finally be countered by farsightedness? Isn’t it unfair that now I have both?
Anyway, I finally got the needle threaded when I realized that the tangled glob of scraps and ribbon had disappeared. And when I ducked down to see where it had fallen, I lost the needle. Had to be on the table, still, right? So I started looking – maybe it got into the remaining scraps – when I see a paw, white, fuzzy, reaching up. Reaching around. And soon enough, the catnip bag – chewed but still fragrant – disappeared, too. First things first: I found the needle, buried safely in that one remaining scrap of denim. Only by then, the thread had pulled out. Luckily for me, by this point, Musetta had abandoned the tangled ribbons – as a responsible pet person, I know how much havoc ribbons can cause when eaten – and was busy disemboweling the catnip bag with her rabbit-like hind feet. And it hit me: I don’t need to make a toy to entertain the cat. I’m her toy, and all my crafts attempts are merely games.
Panthers Play for Keeps--A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
When Pru Marlowe takes a dog for a walk, she doesn’t expect to find a body. But Spot, a service dog in training, has too good a nose not to lead her to the remains of the beautiful young woman, and despite her own best instincts, Pru can’t avoid getting involved. The young woman seems to have been mauled by a wild cat – and Pru knows there have been no pumas in the Berkshire woods for years. And while Wallis, Pru's curmudgeonly tabby, seems fixated on the idea of a killer cat, Spot has been sending strange signals to Pru’s own heightened senses, suggesting that the violent death was something more than a tragic accident. As motives multiply, a cougar of a different sort sets her eyes on Pru’s sometime lover, and another woman disappears. With panther panic growing, Pru may have to put aside her own issues – and her own ideas of domesticity – to solve a savage mystery.