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Cattery Row (Theda Krakow Series #2)

Cattery Row (Theda Krakow Series #2)

4.6 8
by Clea Simon

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Spiky freelancer Theda Krakow has fallen on a bare patch. Changes at the newspaper have cut her regular assignments and magazine work is slim. When a call comes in asking her to profile Cool, a gifted musician who's being oddly reclusive, it's welcome relief from both Theda's man and money troubles.

But even with work at hand, there are problems: Someone is


Spiky freelancer Theda Krakow has fallen on a bare patch. Changes at the newspaper have cut her regular assignments and magazine work is slim. When a call comes in asking her to profile Cool, a gifted musician who's being oddly reclusive, it's welcome relief from both Theda's man and money troubles.

But even with work at hand, there are problems: Someone is stealing show cats. And both the feline-friendly Theda and her friend Violet, who runs the local shelter, are outraged. When a kindly cat breeder is implicated in the thefts, Theda resolves to uncover the culprits. But when a murder hits close to home, the circle of suspects widens to include family, an extortionist, and more....

Theda is a great guide to the city, whether hanging out in her Cambridge neighborhood or enjoying the latest bands in the clubs, particularly Violet's brand of riot grrrl punk. She's less adept at sorting out her own heart, which largely belongs to her kitten, Musetta, but as a sleuth, she's razor-sharp.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"The mystery's a winner, but the real appeal of Simon's work is Theda herself ...Cat-themed mysteries are often classified as "cozies," but Cattery Row is, if not hard-boiled, nowhere near cute -- except, of course, for the cats. Simon writes with grit, and in Theda, she has created a flawed and sometimes infuriating protagonist, one readers will want to see for many more lives." -- Jay Strafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch (10/29/2006)

"With its well-developed cast of characters and a multilayered plot, this feline mystery is the cat's meow." --Publisher's Weekly

"A well done example of the traditional (or cozy") mystery, Cattery Row is a pleasant and diverting book. Simon clearly has talent, and it will be interesting to watch how her writing develops" --Boston Globe

Publishers Weekly
In Simon's satisfying second kitty cozy (after 2005's Mew Is for Murder), spunky Boston journalist Theda Krakow and her feline friend, Musetta, are plunged into a crazy quilt of cat-related crime. In recent months, eight catteries near Beantown have been broken into, and expensive show cats stolen. Theda is puzzled over these thefts without documents of their lineage, the cats are practically worthless, so why would anyone steal them? Then, one of Theda's friends, eccentric cat-breeder Rose Keller, lets on that she's received some threatening phone calls. A few days later, Rose turns up dead. Meanwhile, a blues singer called Cool tells Theda that she's being blackmailed. Someone has evidence that Cool has been drinking and using prescription drugs. (This is the weakest strand in the plot would a celebrity musician shell out big bucks to keep a little pill-popping secret?) With its well-developed cast of characters and a multilayered plot, this feline mystery is the cat's meow. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Poisoned Pen Press
Publication date:
Theda Krakow Series , #2
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.86(h) x 0.83(d)

Read an Excerpt

Cattery Row

By Clea Simon

Poisoned Pen Press

Copyright © 2006 Clea Simon
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-59058-466-8

Chapter One

Musetta pounced and her prey went flying. All across my kitchen table, the once-neat pile of overdue notices, envelopes, and vaguely threatening letters scattered into disarray.

"Kitty!" I grabbed at a phone bill that balanced on the table's edge and retrieved a final notice from the floor. October still had two weeks to go, but the paperwork had been piling up for over a month—to my discomfort but, apparently, my pet's amusement. I watched as my athletic little cat settled in on top of an auto insurance form and began licking an envelope. Beneath her white boot I could make out the words "Second Notice."

"Never mind." I reached over to stroke her sleek black head. "It's no good anyway, kitten. We're broke."

Pushing aside an envelope edged with ominous red lettering, I let my other hand settle into her thick neck ruff. I called her "kitten," but it was only a term of endearment at this point. My young cat had reached her full growth, developing into a full-bodied beauty, and as the weather cooled into a New England autumn, that included a dense coat as glossy as a seal's. Unconcerned by our looming financial disaster, the round face that looked up at me could have posed for Currier and Ives, were it not for the off-center white star on her nose. That made her look slightly cross-eyed and goofy, but eminently squeezable. And after an early kittenhood on the streets she suffered fools of my sort gladly, letting me rub her neck and the base of her ears until her green eyes closed and she purred to the point of drooling. To strangers, especially those who didn't appreciate simple healthy beasts, I skimmed over her stray youth, introducing her as a medium-haired random-bred Jellicle, after T.S. Eliot's fanciful naming of "tuxedo" cats, and let them make of it what they would.

It was harder, I had to admit, to come up with such attitude when describing myself. Thirty-three and feeling it, these days I was lacking the fire my red hair was supposed to signify. Partly that came from being a rock fan in a college town, a longtime habitué of the nocturnal world where the denizens all tended to look younger as I grew older—a shift particularly noticeable as each fall brought a new crop of students to flash their fake IDs and flood my favorite clubs. Partly that came from being a freelance writer, a free agent who had lacked the good sense not to alienate my one reliable source of income.

"It wasn't my fault, kitty." Musetta had laid back on the pile of paper, lulled into near-sleep by my constant petting and the taste of glue. "Well, not totally." Something about a cat compels honesty, and her green eyes, half-closed, demanded the truth. "I mean, you'd have bitten him, and that's what I did in my own way." She didn't respond, but that didn't stop me. I've always talked to cats. Who knows what they understand? And besides, nobody else would believe me.

When it happened, two months before, I hadn't thought it would be such a big deal. It had been one of those humid late August afternoons that make you either sleepy or mad. I'd been leaning toward the latter when I'd gone down to the offices of the Boston Morning Mail, the newspaper where I'd toiled as a copy editor for close to seven years and for which these days I did the majority of my freelance writing. I went as much for the air-conditioning as anything else, since the cavernous plant tended to be chilled to the point of absurdity all summer while my third-floor Cambridge apartment held heat like an oven. I figured I'd pick up the accumulated fliers and other junk that tended to fill the mailbox that still bore my name. Maybe say hi to some of my former colleagues, and just cool off. I hadn't looked for a run-in with Tim, the features editor. But when I saw him gesturing from his glass-fronted office, I'd put on the best friendly-eager smile I could conjure, pulled at my still-damp T-shirt to erase some of the creases, and made my way over to the messy little room, waiting until he sat behind his desk before lowering myself gingerly onto the pile of press releases that covered his one guest chair.

"Krakow," he barked by way of greeting, his gruff voice cutting through the air-conditioner roar. Most of my friends call me by my first name, Theda, but Tim had affected a Lou Grant-style grumpiness recently to match his expanding waist and receding hairline. Despite the chilled air, his button-down shirt looked rumpled and his neck was chafed red. I assumed the weather had gotten to him too, if not the constant noise. "That idea you had? You wrote me a note? I've been thinking about it."

I'd been a regular music stringer for a while by then, filling in for the staff pop and rock critics whenever one of them felt like a night in or a night off. Writing about live music, trying to translate those one-of-a-kind moments for those who missed them while also adding some perspective for fans who caught the show was the best, and I loved the rush of reviewing on deadline for the next day's paper, too. But such assignments were still few and far between. So to augment the reviews, I kept a steady stream of feature story pitches in circulation, ranging from two-paragraph outlines to a page or two from actual stories that I'd started writing.

Not having any clue as to which of a dozen such pitches Tim was referring to, I sat waiting as he shuffled papers. He cursed under his breath, and I fought a growing urge to shiver or at least roll my eyes at his disorganized ways. I had to. Being a freelance writer—I preferred the term "hired gun"—had its high points: the freedom to explore any topic that caught my fancy, the ability to research and conduct interviews the way I thought they should be done, the opportunity to structure my days around my writing. Even though I was paid by the piece, and not much at that, quitting my editing job the previous winter seemed like the right move for me as a writer. Selling my work, though, that's what tended to trip me up, and sitting there, waiting for Tim to find my proposal made me all too aware of what I lacked. As much as I believed in my stories, I found it hard to muster the marketing part, the smooth sell—hell, the sheer effrontery to pitch properly, effectively to the powers-that-be. Thirty words or less: that's what editors wanted to hear, and god help you if you didn't have a hot hook in there somewhere. Sex or drugs, these were needed to sell even rock 'n' roll these days, and what any of that had to do with writing a good story I never could tell. But at least I could keep a lid on my impatience. As I stared at Tim and waited, I could feel goosebumps begin to rise and crossed my arms. If only I still had my office sweater. Or a book.

"The behind-the-scenes piece at the cat show?" I knew I was shooting in the dark. I didn't think Tim would care for a story about high-end breeders and their cut-throat competitions no matter how into it I was, but I couldn't remember what else I'd tried to sell him recently.

"No, no more cats, Krakow. You're getting obsessed." He waved his pencil at me and started working through the papers piled in his "In" box. Yes, he was right that I liked to write about felines. But people liked to read about them, too. Tim paused, running his finger inside his collar, but I knew better than to jump in. "The club thing." He pushed aside a coffee-stained napkin, which landed neatly in "Out." "Oh, here it is."

"'Night Lines,'" I said aloud, nodding as I recognized the query letter I'd dropped off months earlier. This idea was special to me. A weekly column covering the music scene in the Boston area, I proposed it as half review and half preview, with news about local happenings—which band was breaking up, who was drawing record-label interest—for spice. I'd been hopeful about this one when I'd typed it up. With more than a decade's worth of nocturnal wanderings to draw on, I had the contacts to make it work and felt confident that my reporting chops would help me to ferret out the doings of those who made the Boston clubs thrive. I knew and loved the music scene and by now had written enough critical pieces to be able to describe what I listened to in a way that would help readers hear what I heard, maybe even love what I loved. As the weeks went by and the pitch had gone unnoticed, I'd almost forgotten about it. But the timing made sense. I'd heard the same rumors as everyone else in the newsroom: The Mail's circulation was sinking, especially among younger readers. Tim would have to start making some concessions to the thousands of students and recent grads who called the city home. What better way than running a new weekly column on the clubs?

"Yeah, 'Night Lines.' I like that. It would be regular, too, so we could get rid of some of those damned reviews. I mean, the show's over. Who cares? But I'm thinking of calling it something different." He tapped the paper before him with a pencil. I could see that at least two different hands had scrawled notes on it, and leaned a bit closer to decipher them.

"Something younger. More hip." Tim flipped the page over, so I sat back. "'The Boston Beat'?"

I bit my tongue to stop a groan. "Um, I think that might have been used before." At least a dozen times.

"Anyway, younger. That's the point, Krakow." I waited. "You've probably heard about the focus groups we've been hosting?" He didn't pause for an answer. "Younger, that's what they found. Our demographics are skewing too old. Too many soccer moms in the suburbs with their minivans and groceries." His voice took on the disparaging tone of someone who'd always had someone else to do his errands. Who brought his groceries home? My tongue was starting to bleed.

"So, we're going to go with it. At least for a trial run." He must have heard my intake of breath, seen my eyes light up, but he stopped me with a raised hand. "But we're giving it to one of our new hires, a bright young thing named Jessica." His eyes wandered to the glass wall and I collapsed back in my chair, deflated. "Real bright, that girl." With an effort I closed my mouth and followed his gaze out the window. A buxom young woman, made to look even younger by the long braids that held her dark hair, was smiling in at us. She waved, one of those cutesy little finger wiggles, and the flush on Tim's neck rose to his face. My smitten editor waved back and with a visible effort swung around toward me again. To do him credit, he didn't even try to meet my eyes. Instead, he started shuffling through the papers on his desk.

"Anyway, we want you to show her the ropes. You've been around. Get her up to speed on what's going on. We'll pay you for your time." He started stacking things, my silence coming through loud and clear. "How about, oh, I don't know ... maybe a hundred bucks a week for three or four weeks until she figures out which end is up?" More silence. "We could maybe squeeze out a hundred fifty." He dared a glance up at me. "We really value your expertise and you'd be a great source for this column, Krakow. Give it a real sense of perspective. You know, give it some history. You're old enough."

So that's when it happened, and when I looked back on it two months later, I didn't see any way I could have played it differently. Sure, I could have watched my language. I didn't have to tell him to screw himself, the paper, and any willing portion of the focus group. I could have declined his offer with a polite "no, thanks" and made my exit without slamming the door so hard those glass walls shook and at least one shelf collapsed behind me. And, yeah, I didn't have to explain my displeasure quite so loudly when Ralph, the staff pop music critic, and Shelley from the copy desk both came over to inquire about the noise. If I'd voiced my frustration in a more modulated tone, the rest of the department might not have heard me. And then I probably wouldn't feel quite so shut off from ever going back into that chill warren of cubicles and glass. But my tongue hurt, as did my ego. And what would I have done if I'd stayed? What would my future assignments have been, now that I'd been relegated to the has-beens, the too-old, and the unhip? An endless series of smaller and smaller service features, undoubtedly. The kind they give to those suburban moms, or any writers they perceive as such. Friendly little stories on rainy-weekend tips or child-care-on-a-budget. A dozen things to do with paper bags. The kind of assignment that had broken the spirit of better writers than I and sent them scurrying from the newsroom into public relations jobs.

Well, I wasn't going that route, not that any big publicity firms would be courting me in the current economic climate. But I wasn't going back. I didn't blame Baby Jessica, as I'd taken to describing her to my friends. I couldn't in all good conscience. The job market was tough these days, you did what you had to, or at least she had. Although when I tried this line out on Bunny, my best friend, she started to argue that neither of us would have taken a gig out from under a sister. Since leaving her childhood Catholicism for the nature-based Wiccan religion, Bunny had become both more ethical and more stringently feminist. Maybe in part because she still worked at the Mail, where we'd met, and seen how the paper was changing. And I'd thought I'd be okay. I mean, all the whole Tim debacle had proven was that my ideas were commercially viable, right?

But then I Do magazine had stopped calling. I didn't know what I'd done to fall out of favor at the glossy wedding magazine. I didn't think I'd cursed out any of their editors. All I knew was that the big features—a grand or more for articles on shoe dying or whether to have a plated or buffet meal—dried up, leaving me without my other major source of income. And the bills kept coming, until I'd ignored them long enough to scare myself. Which brought me up to my morning of penance and thoughts of penury, as I finally opened all those piled-up, red-bordered envelopes and watched my calm kitty lick the sticky bits.

"What's with the adhesives, Musetta? Are we going to have to get you into a program for this?" Lying on her side, she turned her head upside down to look at me. I could see her petite fangs peeking out of her half-opened mouth and chucked her fuzzy chin. The glue seemed to have left her slightly stoned. "Leave some on the envelopes, okay?"

I slid an envelope out from under her and extracted the enclosed notice as she made a half-hearted grab at it. It was for sixty bucks, to our vet Rachel, for the spaying operation Musetta had had the month before. I looked over now at her exposed belly, the pink of her skin still showing through the growing fluff of white fur. I'd have to pay this one right away; Rachel was a friend as well as our vet, but I couldn't disturb the resting feline further.

"Keep the bills. But I get the newspaper." I started to slide the Sunday Mail out from under her hindquarters, spurring another flurry of pounces and paper. "Meh!" My feline colleague protested as I finally got the news section away from her, but then sat back on the rest of the paper to begin washing one white-stockinged foot.

Taxes, war, death, and more taxes. I leafed through the pages, looking for something that would distract me from my own mess. That's when I saw her: Regina's Princess Furbottom of White Eagle, a grand champion queen, that is, a breeding female cat. The star of her cattery, the aptly named Regina Ragdolls, the Ragdoll queen merited her own quarter-page photo with a big, furry body and the face of a startled Siamese. I'm not much on pedigreed cats, preferring instead the random shuffle of nature. But I do like generous animals and Botty, as the caption said she was known, looked like a puss you could seriously cuddle. Except, I read on, that she was missing.


Excerpted from Cattery Row by Clea Simon Copyright © 2006 by Clea Simon. Excerpted by permission of Poisoned Pen Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Clea Simon is a Massachusetts-based writer, journalist and a regular contributor to the New York Times, Boston Globe, San Francisco Chronicle, Ms., Rolling Stone and Salon.com. She's the author of three nonfiction books, Mad House: Growing Up in the Shadow of Mentally Ill Siblings, Fatherless Women: How We Change After We Lose Our Dads, and The Feline Mystique: On the Mysterious Connection Between Women and Cats. She lives in Cambridge, MA, with her husband, the writer Jon S. Garelick, and their cat, Musetta. Mew is for Murder is Simon's first mystery novel.

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Cattery Row (Theda Krakow Series #2) 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
IngridKing More than 1 year ago
In this second book in Clea Simon's Theda Krakow series, we get to enter the world of show cats and the Boston area rock and roll scene. When show cats are being stolen, and Theda's friend Rose, a breeder of pedigreed cats receives threats and is eventually implicated in the thefts and then found murdered, Theda begins to investigate because she refuses to believe that her friend had anything to do with the cat thefts. While she delves into solving the cat thefts and her friend's murder, a musician friend of Theda's is being blackmailed and becomes increasingly withdrawn. Are the two situations connected? This is a well-crafted mystery with an immensely likeable heroine and the combination of cats and rock and roll make this a thoroughly enjoyable read. I particularly enjoyed this second glimpse into Theda's world because of Simon's excellent character development. Theda continues to grow as we get to know her better. And let's not forget Musetta, Theda's feline sidekick, who always has a paw in solving the mystery.
TheBookResort More than 1 year ago
Cattery Row is Clea Simon's second foray in the Theda Krakow series.In this sophomore outting Theda's caught up in murder, extortion and cat thefts.In recent months, eight catteries near Boston have been broken into, and expensive show cats stolen.Theda is bewildered over these thefts. Afterall, without documents of their lineage, the cats are practically worthless, so why would anyone steal them?Her friends are having their own problems. Eccentric cat-breeder Rose has received a blackmail phone call. She doesn't have the money they asked for. If she doesn't pay, they will kill her cats. Violet has had some sick kittens stolen from her shelter.Theda gets hired to write a follow up story. Her friend Rose is one of those women. When Theda goes to interview her, she finds Rose murdered.Thea speculates the blackmailer killed her. The police figure Rose was involved in the string of robberies of purebred cats.Cleo Simon definitely knows cats. Her knowledge comes through in the way she has them interact with the humans. Ms.Simon ensnares you immediately from the first page.This series just gets better & better.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Tough times have hit Theda Krakow, a freelance journalist. She had a blowup with Tim, an editor of The Boston Morning Mail, which means she isn¿t writing for them any more. Plus she¿s not sure about her relationship with Bill, a Boston homicide detective. Her friends are having their own problems. Rose has received a blackmail phone call. She doesn¿t have the money they asked for. If she doesn¿t pay, they will kill her cats. Violet has had some sick kittens stolen from her shelter. Theda gets hired to write a follow up about 4 women. Her friend Rose is one of those women. When Theda goes to interview her, she finds Rose murdered. She figures the blackmailer killed her. The police figure she was involved in the string of robberies of purebred cats. To muddy the waters even more, her ex-boyfriend returns. Should Theda get back with him or work on her relationship with Bill? Can Theda figure out who the killer is and what is really going on without using up her one life? I really enjoy Theda. She¿s such a fun character. I love the Boston setting as well. I like this series with cats. The author really knows cats. That comes through in the way she has them interact with the humans. Yet, she doesn¿t feel a need to make them ¿talk.¿ I felt this was even better than her debut novel in this series. I can¿t wait for the next one to be published. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Freelance journalist Theda Krakow is having a rough time of it lately. The reporter, who has had many of her articles published by the Boston Morning Mail, had a major blow up with her editor Tim and walks out in a tiff, which leads to her current financial crisis. She wonders whether her relationship with Bill, a Boston homicide detective, should go to the next level finally she is further confused when her former ex-boyfriend comes back to Boston wanting to see her.------------- Her friends aren¿t doing much better. Her cattery pal Rose is being blackmailed for $20,000 which she insists she does not have but must pay otherwise they will kill her cats. Another pal Violet has had some sick cats stolen from her shelter. When Theda goes to interview Rose for a story she finds the woman murdered and believes the blackmailer committed the crime while the police think she was killed because of her involvement in stealing purebred cats. Theda investigates not realizing she may need as many lives as the cats possess.--------------- CATTERY ROW is much more than just a great mystery it is a story of a woman¿s life. Through her eyes the audience will adore the quirky and culturally rich Cambridge protagonist who deals with failure responsibly while also enjoying her relationships with her lover and her friends, all with distinct differing and distinct personalities. The whodunit is fantastic as Clea Simon brings her heart and soul into CATTERY ROW.-------------- Harriet Klausner
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