Street Cat Blues by Alison O’Leary – a streetwise cat, murder and gang life in a contemporary tragi – comedy

Streetwise, talkative and highly intelligent, this is the story of a cat who helps to solve a series of murders. This is no fluffy fantasy, however; the people around Aubrey the large tabby cat are so realistically portrayed that in solving the mystery, the reader gets a grim picture of contemporary British life, even if at times quite a funny one. Using the language of the Underworld which reminded me of the comedy “Porridge”, this is a book which shows that the urban cat world is no stranger to gangs and drugs. This is a cheeky read, full of telling detail, and really enjoyable in its unusual perspective of life in the twenty first century. I was really grateful to receive a copy to read and review, and found it extremely entertaining.

The book opens with Aubrey watching the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the death of Mr Telling, an elderly man who lived alone. Aubrey is particularly saddened by this, as he frequently gave him small treats and extra food. He feels so strongly that he goes back to investigate, almost getting himself locked in the house and witnessing an encounter between Maria, an excitable Brazilian, and a mysterious man. Gradually we find out that Aubrey was an abandoned kitten, who found a home with Raj who was murdered. He has traumatic memories of being taken to the rescue centre, and is grateful to the couple, Molly and Jeremy, who chose and adopted him. He now has a secure life, but remembers clearly his time living on the streets, and the tricks and abilities that enabled him to survive. He spends time with the other local cats who have their distinctive personalities, large or small, reliable and challenging. I was especially amused by Roger and Rupert, twin cats with the personalities of certain gang leaders of the 1960s. As it begins to appear that a serial killer is on the loose, Aubrey resolves to keep his eyes open. He makes a human friend apart from Molly and Jeremy, who gives the latter a lot of trouble. As tension in the human world increases with a terrible crime which takes place in a really bad part of the area, Aubrey must also concern himself with feline matters as a battle is planned.

With an effective plot which keeps its focus while Aubrey moves through his brilliantly observed world, this book is fascinating throughout and maintained my interest. It has much to say about our world from a different level, and carefully gives a different view of contemporary life from underneath. The echoes of human society’s preoccupations in the cat world are compelling, and I am glad to say that any misgivings I had about reading a story where a cat is the central character were quickly overcome. It is not a cosy crime novel, nor yet a brutal read, but has some good points to make about life in our cities. It is a really good read, and I recommend it.

As a keen indoor cat watcher, I really enjoyed this book. I think any of us who live with a pet wonders sometimes what goes through their heads. Selwyn the Vicarage Cat just loves meeting new people, making a fuss of them and being allowed to choose which lap he will sit on. He makes himself scarce when a very small person comes into sight, however, as they are completely unpredictable! Like many cats though, he can tell when his meal times are!