Cat in the Dark cover

Cat in the Dark

by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

(Joe Grey Cat Mystery Series, Book 4)

HarperPrism, 1999
Hardcover: ISBN 0061050962
Paperback: Avon, ISBN 0061059471
E-book: HarperCollins
Audiobook: Download, CD, and digital rental

Winner of the Cat Writers' Association's
1999 Muse Medallion

The precious peace of sleepy little Molena Point is threatened as never before. There's a new cat in town: Azrael, a renegade tom with a penchant for voodoo, a scorn for his fellow felines, and a nasty hatred of humans. He calls himself the death angel, and claims he can predict murder. But does Azrael predict murder, or attract it? And how can Joe and Dulcie expose his criminal ways without letting untrustworthy humans in on the secret that certain select cats can think and talk?

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Quotes from the reviews

"The intrepid investigative duo ... have already acquired a legion of loyal readers... Joe and Dulcie are not the only feline detectives currently in the literary marketplace, but they are certainly the most interesting. These are not cute, little, furry kitties but rather two shrewd investigators with somewhat caustic personalities, which seem to mirror perfectly the independence and occasional arrogance of real cats... Cat owners will appreciate some of the subtle nuances of behavior Murphy instills in her hero and heroine, but even those who don't share their lodgings with the feline set will still enjoy this well-written whodunit. There are also a few delicious surprises in store for the reader as the story races toward a conclusion that should catch even the most seasoned mystery fan off guard." --Bob Walch, Monterey County Herald, February 28, 1999

"What makes this series so delightful for both cat lovers and readers of offbeat fantasies is that Murphy's convincing anthropomorphism allows the cats to maintain their feline natures while still adopting human speech and cognition." --Booklist, December 15, 1998

"Readers will find this premise ... stimulating and charming.... A special treat ... for cat mystery fanciers." --Library Journal, December 1998

"[Murphy] writes a fast-paced tale, and she has a way with her cat scenes." --Publisher's Weekly, November 16, 1998

"[Dulcie and Joe Grey have] powers and abilities far beyond those of ordinary literary cats ... the forces of evil arrayed against them are formidable.... Murphy's raised the stakes of the feline sleuth genre." --Kirkus Reviews

"Murphy ... has the feline touch. Cat in the Dark briskly moves forward and the cats are brilliantly different and nicely developed characters, who are totally unlike their sleuthing peers." --Harriet Klausner, Book Browser

"Murphy explores the foibles of the cat and human worlds without descending into the cutesy stuff of other cat writers. Even a cat hater wouldn't mind hanging out with Joe and Dulcie." --Anna AShwood Collins, Glynco Observer and Jekyll's Golden Islander, January 7, 1999

"Murphy's cats are ... rough-edged creatures with a decided attitude ... the stories [are] ingeniously mesmerizing." --Robert Walch, Mostly Murder

"As in all the Joe Grey stories, Murphy's love for animals, and her intimate knowledge of their unique qualities and personality quirks, shines clearly throughout Cat in the Dark. Murphy doesn't pull any punches when it comes to grisly crime description, and she skillfully builds the tension so you don't want to put the book down!" --Library Cat Newsletter, Spring 1999

Excerpt from the story

In the bedroom of the white Cape Cod cottage, moonlight shone through the open windows and a fitful breeze fingered across the bed, teasing the ears of the tomcat who slept curled in the blankets, his muscular body gleaming as sleek as gray velvet. Beside him on the double bed, his human housemate snored softly, clutching the pillow for warmth, unaware that Joe Grey had clawed away the covers into a comfortable and exclusive nest. Clyde, naked and chilled, was too deep in sleep to wake and retrieve the blankets, but Joe Grey stirred as the breeze quickened, his white paws flexed and his nose lifted, catching an elusive scent.

He woke fully, staring toward the open window, drawing his lips back in a grimace at the stink he detected on the cool night air.


The smell that came to him on the ocean breeze was the rank odor of an unknown tom--a stranger in the village.

. . . . . .

This could be a stray from the wharf who had decided to prowl among the shops, or maybe some tourist's cat; whatever the case, he didn't like the intruder's belligerent, testosterone-heavy message. The beast's odor reeked of insolence and of a bold and dark malaise--a hotly aggressive, sour aroma. The cat smelled like trouble.

. . . . . .

Pawing free of the confining bedcovers, Joe Grey walked heavily across the bed and across Clyde's stomach and dropped down to the thick, soft rug. Clyde, grunting, raised up and glared at him.

"Why the hell do you do that? You're heavy as a damned moose!"

Joe smiled and dug his claws into the rug's silky pile.

Clyde's black hair was wild from sleep, his cheeks dark with a day's growth of stubble. A line of black grease streaked his forehead, residue from the innards of some ailing Rolls Royce or Mercedes.

"You have the whole damned bed to walk on. Can't you show a little consideration? I don't walk on your stomach."

Joe dug his claws deeper into the Persian weave, his yellow eyes sly with amusement. "You work out, you're always bragging about your great stomach muscles--you shouldn't even feel my featherweight. Anyway, you were snoring so loud, so deep under, that a Great Dane on your stomach shouldn't have waked you."

"Get the hell out of here. Go on out and hunt, let me get some sleep. Go roll in warm blood or whatever you do at night."

"For your information, I'm going straight to the library. What more sedate and respectable destination could one possibly..."

"Can it, Joe. Of course you're going to the library--but only to get Dulcie. Then off to murder some helpless animal, attack some innocent little mouse or cute, cuddly rabbit. Look at you--that killer expression plastered all over your furry face."

"Rabbits are not cuddly. A rabbit can be as vicious as a bullterrier--their claws are incredibly sharp. And what gives you the slightest clue to Dulcie's and my plans for the evening? You're suddenly an authority on the behavior of felis domesticus?"

Clyde doubled the pillow behind his head. "I don't have to be an authority to smell the blood on your breath when you come stomping in at dawn."

"I don't come in here at dawn. I go directly to the kitchen, minding my own business."

"And trailing muddy pawprints all over the kitchen table. Can't you wash like a normal cat? You get so much mud on the morning paper, who can read it?"

"I have no trouble reading it. Though why anyone would waste more than five minutes on that rag is hard to understand."

Clyde picked up the clock, which he kept facedown on the night table. The luminous dial said twelve thirty-three. "It's late, Joe. Get on out of here. Save your sarcasm for Dulcie. Some of us have to get up in the morning, go to work to support the indigent members of the household."

"I can support myself very nicely, thank you. I let you think otherwise simply to make you feel needed, to let you think you perform useful function in the world."

. . . . . .

Trotting down the hall and through the living room, brushing past his own tattered, hair-matted easy chair, he slipped out through his cat door. He supposed he should feel sorry for Clyde. How could a mere human, with inferior human senses, appreciate the glory of the moonlit night that surrounded him as he headed across the village?

To his right, above the village roofs, the Molena Point hills rose round and silvered like the pale, humped backs of grazing beasts. All around him, the shop windows gleamed with lunar light, and as he crossed Ocean Avenue with its eucalyptus-shaded median, the trees' narrow leaves, long and polished, reflected the moon's glow like silver fish hung from the branches--thousands, millions of bright fish. No human, with inferior human eyesight, could appreciate such a night. No human, with dull human hearing and minimal sense of smell, could enjoy any of the glories of the natural world as vividly as did a cat. Clyde, poor pitiful biped, didn't have a clue.

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