Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s only the end of April and I think I can safely say I have found my favorite book of the year. Cat Out of Hell is dryly hilarious, surprising, riveting, and–most of all–utterly charming.
It’s a quick read featuring an unlikely protagonist and a believable-if-unexpected villain. Alec is a librarian who has just lost his wife and retired (rather early, by American standards) from his job. While trying to distract himself from his grief, he is sent a curious set of documents…about a talking cat. Alec is thrown, quite unwillingly and yet headlong, into a great grisly mystery dating back at least a hundred years.
The story format itself is unique: it is a combination of diary-ish entries, descriptions of photos and audio files, email exchanges, attempted screenplays, and at least one incidence of “emiaow”–cat telepathic communications, of course. Utterly charming, as I said.
One challenge for some readers may be that it is Very British, with absolutely no Harry Potter-like accommodations for American readers. That means you’ll just have to accept (or Google) the many Britishisms and pop culture references, or miss out on a lot of the fun. The sense of humor is also resolutely British in flavor, with our artless protagonist feeling a little bad about winning even when he is completely justified. It’s so incredibly, delightfully, downplayed.
Cat lovers will adore this book for its adroit insight into the feline mind, and cat haters will walk away certain they are correct to dislike our independent little companions. (Oh, dog lovers, don’t worry, there are some nice bits for you, too.) I can’t recommend it enough!