Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cat Out of Hell by Lynne Truss (2014)

Cat Out of Hell opens with retired librarian Alec Charlesworth holidaying on the coast of North Norfolk. It is midwinter, and the cold weather matches Alec's mood as he mourns the recent death of his much-loved wife, Mary. While away, he opens an email from a former colleague, Dr Winterton, that tells an odd tale of a murderous talking cat...

I select books to read for a number of reasons. I do quite a lot of reading for work - some, admittedly, more enjoyable than others. As I explained here, sometimes I read a book just because everyone else is (no, I wouldn't jump off the cliff but I would certainly drive to the location just to see why everyone else is doing it). Cat Out of Hell I borrowed just because I really really liked the cover:

See what I mean? It's a really great cover. That said, given that cover appeal was literally the only reason I picked the book up, I wasn't really sure what to expect. I have read and very much enjoyed Eats, Shoots & Leaves so was not surprised when the novel was perfectly punctuated. It was also not surprising that the novel was incredibly well steeped in literary heritage. Set in an academic library in the university town of Cambridge, references to great works of literature are scattered throughout the text. I was, however, a little bit surprised at the gruesome murders, until I flicked to the back of the book and realised it was published by Hammer Books, a Random House imprint that publish horror books.

Genre placement sorted out and cover close at hand to look at whenever I felt like, Cat Out of Hell is an entertaining ride. Moments of genuine pathos as Alec copes with his grief are contrasted with biting black humour (Roger the talking cat is well travelled and read and possesses an acerbic wit and charm) with the obligatory horror genre gruesome deaths thrown in for good measure. That said, the plot contains many gaping holes (which Truss acknowledges but doesn't fix, which I thought was a bit of a cop-out). Following The Paying Guests and preceding Americanah, it's also blessedly short. A charming yet fatally flawed book: three stars.

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