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Red Cat

Red Cat

4.8 12
by Peter Spiegelman

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This riveting mystery finds Private Investigator John March descending into Manhattan’s dark and scandalous underworld to help a member of his own family.

David March, John’s brother, has been having affairs with anonymous women he meets on the internet. Now one of these women is stalking him. David knows her only as Wren. She, however, knows


This riveting mystery finds Private Investigator John March descending into Manhattan’s dark and scandalous underworld to help a member of his own family.

David March, John’s brother, has been having affairs with anonymous women he meets on the internet. Now one of these women is stalking him. David knows her only as Wren. She, however, knows everything about David—and she's threatening to tell his wife and colleagues, ruining his life. With his marriage, career, and reputation at stake, David asks John to find her. What John discovers is there is more to Wren than David knows. She’s an intriguing mystery, an internet pornographer and video artist with a penchant for turning the tables on her subjects. But when she turns up dead, John finds he's no longer searching for a stalker—now he's looking for a murderer, and the clues keep leading him back to his older brother’s doorstep.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
The brutal murder of a beautiful woman; a wealthy, high-profile suspect; and plenty of eye-popping illicit sexual encounters make this third installment in Peter Spiegelman's series featuring deeply flawed private investigator John March (Black Maps and Death's Little Helpers) a page-turner of the highest order.

Still struggling to put the pieces of his life together after the murder of his wife years earlier, March is stunned when his egomaniacal and estranged older brother, David, shows up on his doorstep and practically demands help. David, it seems, has a long history of cheating on his wife; but his latest conquest -- a redhead named Wren whom he met through an online service -- has turned out to be more than he bargained for. Not only has she videotaped their sadomasochistic trysts, but David believes she's stalking him. March attempts to track down the mysterious Wren; but before he can find her, she turns up floating face-down in a nearby river. As the authorities slowly close in on his smug brother as the prime suspect, March's investigation into Wren's shadowy past sends him charging headlong to his own potential demise…

Despite a title that sounds like a lost Dr. Seuss work, there's nothing childish about Red Cat. With its focus on pornography, sexual obsession, and their horrific impact on families and careers, this adrenaline-fueled thriller is a down-and-dirty crime fiction masterpiece. Fans of contemporary neo-noir authors like Ken Bruen, Charlie Huston, and Jason Starr should make it a point to read Spiegelman as soon as possible. Highly recommended. Paul Goat Allen
Marilyn Stasio
The glossy sheen of Manhattan noir that Peter Spiegelman brought to Black Maps and Death’s Little Helpers has become darker and more lustrous in Red Cat, a morality tale whose depiction of S-and-M performance art gives the story a peculiarly modern twist.
— The New York Times
Patrick Anderson
March's search for the killer keeps us guessing, but what distinguishes the novel is the level of the writing and Spiegelman's portraits of people whom he may not like but always seems to understand … he's a writer with an unusual mix of talents, and Red Cat is one of the most interesting crime novels you're likely to encounter this year.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
At the start of Spiegelman's fine third crime novel to feature New York City PI John March (after Black Maps and Death's Little Helpers), March's Wall Street executive brother, David, comes to March for help with a particularly nasty problem. David has been having torrid sex with a woman he met on the Internet who goes by the name of Wren, and now she's threatening to go public with their affair. David stands to lose his wife and his job unless March can find out what's going on. It turns out that Wren's not a blackmailer-she's a performance artist who videotapes men cheating on their wives, then sells the tapes to art collectors. When Wren turns up dead, David becomes the chief suspect. The melancholy March, his personal life in tatters, hovers constantly on the edge of depression, but he loves his work, and it's this passion that keeps him where readers will want him in the future: on the job. Spiegelman doesn't break new ground, but he continues to be one of today's best practitioners of neo-noir. Author tour. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Wall Street may be a rarefied world, but its inhabitants also can plumb the depths. John March is the black sheep of an investment banking family, formerly a cop and now a private investigator. When his very respectable older brother, David, comes to him for help, John quickly finds himself in a sordid world of perverse sex, dubious art, and, of course, murder. David is being harassed by a woman he met for a few sexual encounters. When she turns up murdered, David and his wife become the prime suspects. Spiegelman retired early from two decades on Wall Street, and his first March book, Black Maps (2003), won a Shamus Award. The second, Death's Little Helpers (2005), also made good use of financial background, but here we get more detecting and less white-collar ambiance. As John matures, so does Spiegelman. The writing is cleaner, the characters are varied and well drawn, and most of all, the plot is believably complex and full of shocking twists. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/06.]-Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
John March (Death's Little Helpers, 2005, etc.) returns to the crime scene in the third installment of an impressive series. This time around, private detective John March is hired by his older brother David, a buttoned-up, power-hungry executive. Happily married, self-righteous David, it turns out, is being blackmailed by a one-night-stand he met through a website designed to broker casual sexual encounters. The situation worsens when the woman is found dead and David becomes a suspect in her murder. The two brothers have never been close, and working together exacerbates their contempt for each other. Indeed, investigating the blackmail scheme leads to uncomfortable truths about how manipulative and damaging siblings can be to one another, for the case hinges on a family nearly as unhappy as John March's. The murdered blackmailer, initially identified only by the tattoo of a red cat, is a young woman using her anonymous tricks to make performance-art films about sexual blackmail. She developed this scheme to quite literally act out her family secrets-just as March's investigation is organized around protecting his. The book's premise is certainly inventive-an old plot of sexual intrigue is nestled within a shiny new plot about techno culture-and John March is a worthy heir to the hardboiled detective. The moral landscape of the minor characters is richly drawn, pulsing with petty evils that call to mind the work of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. John March is perhaps less like Philip Marlowe than he is like Bill Smith, S.J. Rozan's updated Chandleresque detective, but he will doubtless become Smith and Marlowe's peer in the future. Gritty atmosphere and clever plotting enhance afine addition to the noir tradition.
From the Publisher
“Sexy and sophisticated. . . . One of the most interesting crime novels you're likely to encounter this year.”
The Washington Post

“Lustrous. . . . Elegant. . . . The fashionable aesthetics of 'noir porn' are presented here in high style.”
The New York Times Book Review

"Chillingly dark. . . . Peter Spiegelman [is] among the best of today's writers of noir."
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

“Spiegelman doesn't waste a page in this viciously intelligent thriller.”
New York Daily News

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Random House
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700 KB

Read an Excerpt

I’d seen him angry plenty of times. I’d seen him dismissive, contemptuous, reproachful, and mocking too—and, more often than not, I’d seen that bad karma pointed in my direction. But in the thirty- four years I’d known him, I’d never seen my brother quite like this before. I’d never seen him scared.

David ran a hand through his ginger hair and knocked it from its slick alignment. He rose from my sofa and whisked imaginary dust from his spotless gray trousers and paced again before the long wall of windows. I shook my head, as much from the surprise of him turning up at my door on a Monday morning—or, indeed, any time—as from what I’d heard.

“Jesus Christ, David—on the Internet? What the hell were you thinking?”

He stopped to look out at the rooftops and at the sun, struggling up an iron January sky. Reflected in the window glass, his face was lean and sharp-featured—fairer-haired, lighter-eyed, more sour and lined than my own, but still too similar. At six feet tall he was barely an inch shorter than I, but he seemed smaller than that now. His smile was tight and bitter.

“Is this your usual approach with prospective clients—to interrupt their stories so you can exercise your own disapproval?” He flicked at a speck of nothing on the sleeve of his suit jacket.

The irony of him complaining about my disapproval was lost on David just then, but I fought the urge to point it out. Nor did I comment that he wasn’t so much telling his story as wandering around the edges of it. I knew it would be futile. Unsure of what to do with his fear, and unused to discussing it with anyone, least of all with me, David was falling back on more familiar and reliable behaviors, like annoyed and patronizing. I’d seen clients go through it before; fighting didn’t help.

David turned around and made an elaborate survey of my loft—the kitchen at one end, the bedroom and bath at the other, the high ceilings, cast-iron columns, bookshelves, and sparse furnishings in between. He pursed his lips in disapproval. “I haven’t been here since it was Lauren’s,” he said. Lauren was our younger sister, and still the owner of the apartment. I’d been subletting the place for the past five years. “She did more with it,” he added. I kept quiet. David wandered to a bookshelf and eyed the titles and smirked.

“Do people still read poetry?” he said. “People besides you, I mean.”

I sighed, and tried to bring him back to at least the neighborhood of his problem. “You exchanged names with this woman?”

His smirk vanished. “First names only, and not our real ones. At least, the one I gave her wasn’t real. I called myself Anthony.”

“And she . . . ?”

“Wren. She called herself Wren.”

“But now she knows your name—your real name.”

David smoothed his hair and smoothed his steel-blue tie. “Yes. When I think about it, it wouldn’t have been difficult. My wallet was in my suit jacket, and my suit jacket was in the closet or on the back of a chair. She could have gone through it while I was in the bathroom. I should have been more careful about that sort of thing, I suppose, but I assumed we both wanted anonymity. That is the point, after all.”

“The point of . . . ?”

David lifted his eyebrow to a familiar, impatient angle. “The point of the websites. The point of using words like ‘casual’ and ‘discreet’ in your posts.”

I nodded slowly. “You’re pretty familiar with the conventions.” David looked at me and said nothing. “By which I mean: I assume it wasn’t the first time you’d used one of these sites.”

“It wasn’t.”

“How many—”

He cut me off. “How is this relevant?”

I drained my coffee mug, rubbed the last smudges of sleep from my eyes, and counted to ten. “I don’t know what’s relevant and what’s not. I’m still trying to get the lay of the land.”

David sniffed. “Suffice it to say, there were other sites and other women.”

“Were they all onetime things?”

He walked back to the windows. A few sooty snowflakes were drifting down onto Sixteenth Street. David watched them drift. “Some, and some were three- or four-time things. Wren was four times.”

“None of the other women—”

“None of the others ever called me on the phone, John. None of them has shown up at my house. So can we drop them and stick to Wren?” His voice was shaky.

“You saw her four times, over what period?”

“Two months maybe.”

“From when to when?”

“From October to December. The last time was about six weeks ago.”

“When did the calls start?”

“New Year’s Day. She left a message on my office voicemail.”

“And since then?”

David turned toward me. Beneath the flawless Italian tailoring, his arms and legs were stiff as wire. His normally ruddy face was paper white. “In the past two weeks I’ve gotten four more calls at the office, three on my cell, and three at home. Four days ago she dropped by.”

“Does she say what she wants?”

“The two times she’s managed to get through to me she’s said she wants to meet again. She doesn’t seem to get the point of no.”

“She doesn’t say anything more?”

David examined his cuticles intently. “She says plenty more. I’ve saved a couple of the messages; you can hear for yourself.”

“Maybe you could give me a preview.”

He sighed impatiently. “She demands to see me; she won’t be dismissed or ignored. It’s a whole Fatal Attraction shtick. And she makes it clear that she knows where I work—not just my office number, but what I do and where. She mentions Ned, and threatens to call him if I don’t get in touch with her.” Ned is our brother, the eldest of the five of us. With our uncle Ben’s retirement the previous June, he’d also become the managing partner at Klein & Sons—the head guy at the merchant bank our great-grandfather started a few generations ago. Which also made him David’s boss.

“How are you supposed to get in touch with her?”

“The same way we arranged things before, by e-mail.”

“What else does she say?”

David stared at me. His blue eyes were weary but they didn’t waver. “She knows I’m married,” he said finally. “She mentioned Steph-

anie’s name, and a couple of events Steph had been at recently—

fund-raising things. She threatened to call her.”

I nodded. That was more than a glance through his wallet, though the research wouldn’t have been hard. David was a reasonably high-profile guy in some circles, and Google would do the trick. I recalled the mentions in the trade rags, last August, of David’s promotion to head of mergers and acquisitions at Klein. Those articles would probably appear at the top of the search results, but Stephanie’s name would come up too, along with a skein of social contacts.

“She’s done some homework,” I said.

Irritation rippled across David’s face. “You think?” He stalked to the kitchen counter and picked up his coffee mug. He drank from it and grimaced and emptied it in the sink. “Cold,” he said. He made it an accusation.

“Has she made good on her threats?”

“Do you think I’d be here if she had? There wouldn’t be much point, would there?”

I counted to ten again, and then to twenty. I was getting good at it. I’d had a lot of practice with David. “Has she tried to make good on them?”

“Does her little visit to my place count? Thank God Steph wasn’t home for that. Thank God I took care of the fucking doormen this Christmas.”

“So Stephanie doesn’t know about her?”

“No,” David said. His voice was empty of emotion again. “And neither does Ned, and I intend to keep it that way.”

A fine ambition, I thought, though perhaps not realistic. “Does Stephanie know about the other wo—”

“No, goddammit, and can we stick to the point here?” David’s fingers were white on the edge of my kitchen counter. I was running out of numbers.

I took a deep breath. “What happened when you and Wren were together?”

David’s look was a mix of irritation and “Are you some kind of idiot?” “What do you think happened? And if you’re looking for details, forget—”

“I’m not. But did she say or do anything out of the ordinary—

anything to make you think she had another agenda?”

“There was nothing,” he said, shaking his head. “Conversation tends to be . . . limited, and that’s how it was with her. She was maybe a little quieter than some of the others, a little more . . . inwardly turned . . . but that’s all.”

“And you didn’t say anything to her? Anything that might lead her to believe—”

“To believe what, that we were going to run off together or something? Get a cottage by the sea and raise a new generation of Marches? Do you think I’m stupid?” It was one of many thoughts that were colliding in my head, and that I’d so far managed to keep to myself. But David wasn’t making it easy. He jabbed his fingers at me. “And what happened to sticking to the fucking point?”

“That would be a lot easier if you would tell me just what the fucking point is. What is it you want from me?”

“I want you to find this Wren, for chrissakes—to find out who she is and where she lives. To find out as much about her as she has about me. And then I want you to talk to her. Make it clear that I have no interest in seeing her—or hearing from her—ever again. Make it clear I won’t sit still for extortion or manipulation or . . . whatever the hell she has in mind. Make her understand there are consequences.” His voice was shaky at first but steadied with talk of action. The fantasy of control over this sorry situation was short-lived, though, and worry filled the silence when his speech was done. His gaze, fixed on me, was more desperate than resolute.

“You have the wrong idea about what I do.”

David snorted. “I know just what you do, John. You rummage around in people’s lives—you go through their garbage and their dirty laundry. You find them, and you find out about them, all the things they want kept private, all the secret things. I know exactly what you do, and this is right up your alley.”

“I don’t do kneecaps, David.”

He raised his eyebrows and shook his head. There was genuine surprise in his voice. “You think that’s what I’m asking for? Jesus—what kind of person do you think I am?” It was a good question, and I realized then that I didn’t have a clue.

“What kind of consequences did you have in mind, then?”

“I don’t intend to have my life overturned, or to have my pocket picked. If she won’t take the hint from you, the next message will come from a lawyer—a high-priced, tireless, nasty one, with a taste for human flesh. That’s the message I want you to send.”

I thought about that for a while. “Assuming I can find her—”

“Assuming? I thought you were good at this.”

“I am good at it, but there’s nothing certain in this work. Assuming I can find her, and deliver your message, there’s still the possibility that lawyers might not frighten her.” David’s face said the notion was unfathomable. I went on. “She might not have any assets worth going after, or—if she’s nuts enough—she might not care. She might even like the attention.”

A shudder went through him and he pulled his hand again and again through his glossy hair. “We’ll burn that bridge when we get to it,” he said finally. “First find her.” He shut his eyes and pressed his fingers to his temples and looked smaller still.

“You could just let her find you, you know—just wait until she calls and agree to a meeting and send your message in person.”

“I’m done waiting!” David said, and smacked his fist on the countertop. “I won’t have this hanging over my head any longer, and I won’t dance to her tune. If she calls, fine—I’ll agree to a meet, and you can go, but I’m not sitting on my hands until that happens.”

I carried my coffee mug to the kitchen and filled it and wandered to a window. David eyed me warily and I looked back. He was just two years my senior, but in the gray morning light, with the color wrung from his eyes and his expensive woolen skin hanging sadly from his narrow shoulders, he might have been a hundred.

“What is it?” he asked finally. “If it’s money you’re worried about— don’t. I don’t expect a family discount or anything; I’ll pay full freight.”

Full freight. Jesus. I shook my head. “There are other PIs in the world, David. Why do you want to hire me?”

“You think I like the idea? Trust me, I don’t. But I like even less the thought of going to a total stranger. That’s all I need right now is some sleazebag careening around in my life, upending things or . . . God knows what.” David paused and the small sour smile came and went again. “You’re at least a sleazebag I know. You’re the lesser evil.”

I looked at David and nodded. It was the first really straight answer he’d given me all morning.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Peter Spiegelman is the author of Black Maps and Death's Little Helpers. He worked on Wall Street for twenty years developing software systems for international banking institutions and retired in 2001 to devote himself to writing. He lives in Connecticut.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Red Cat 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
emmi331 More than 1 year ago
John March, private detective and black sheep of his wealthy family, is approached by his older brother David for help with a delicate situation. It seems David has gotten in way over his head: what was supposed to be a quick affair has turned into a Fatal Attraction dilemma. John begins his investigation and uncovers a surprise agenda on the part of the woman behind David's stress. When she is murdered during the investigation the obvious suspect is David. It's up to John to follow every clue in order to save his brother (not to mention his marriage). Fittingly, the story is set in a grim, icy New York winter, which adds to the dark atmosphere. The only drawback is the sub-narrative of John's married girlfriend, who seems to have little better to do than drop in on him constantly to serve takeout food and spend the night. It adds nothing to a strong storyline and is a distraction I could have done without.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't give this story quite five stars because of the slow and uneventful pace of most of the book (a lot of the described action is mostly what transpires between John March and his live-in girlfriend). Don't get me wrong, it is still a decent whodunnit book. March is asked by his brother David to find all he can about Wren, a woman he met on the Internet, had a subsequent affair with and is now being hounded by her (like the woman in Fatal Attraction). When John starts investigating, Wren turns up dead. John must then step-up his almost impossible search before David is tied to Wren by the police. John and David's lawyer (Mike) reason that David will be the likely suspect and the police will just focus on him. The more John investigates we find that Wren may not have really been a 'fatal attraction' type personality at all and her motives were for a different reason. There are a slew of possible suspects, including two of Wren's boyfriends, some of her artistic 'subjects' and possibly even David or David's wife. What makes this book interesting is the difficulty and the time constraint that John is working under (especially because David is mostly uncooperative and obnoxious)and that the author gives virtually nothing away until John finds things. The writing style is very good, though I wish it had a little more action.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Growing up brothers John and David March detested one another as adults their scorn for the other remains unabated. Thus John is more than shocked when his snobbish business executive David turns to him for help. The married David used an Internet site to arrange a tryst. The woman videotaped their performance, which if revealed would cost the older sibling his job and probably his wife he wants his younger sibling, a private investigator to find out what is going on and how to prevent the personal disaster from occurring. The only additional clue is a red cat tattoo on the hooker.--------------- John learns the female is Wren, who is not blackmailing David per say, but considers herself an artist selling her tapes of married men cheating with her to the highest bidding collector. The scenario takes a deadly spin when someone murders Wren. John assumes that a sex client committed the homicide, but wonders if righteous David could have performed the deed even as he ponders whether blood is thick enough to propel him to protect David especially if he turns out to be the killer.----------------------- Besides the family dynamics, RED CAT is a fabulous modern day Noir that brings the Internet fully into the sub-genre. John is terrific as he loathes his pompous ¿superior¿ older brother, but also resolves to do his best by him as he is family. Peter Spiegelman provides a great whodunit starring one of the best sleuths to hit the information age (see BLACK MAPS and DEATH'S LITTLE HELPERS).---------------- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a fast, fun read and my first by this author. I was even surprised by the ending. Recommended for fans of mysteries with a noir-ish flavor.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was on a business trip and grabbed a PEOPLE Magazine to entertain me on the plane. As I flipped through the front, I saw in the book reviews a photo of a great looking book jacket, so I read the review, which was excellent. When I reached SF, I went and bought Red Cat for the trip home. Once I started reading it, I just went straight through. (I think I even missed the second round of snacks!) The story is complex and goes straight to the heart of how difficult it can be to deal with one's own family. The overarching mystery itself is suspenseful and full of twists and turns. It's a real page turner that can I heartily recommend to fiction and mystery readers alike.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I¿ve found a ¿new¿ author, at least new to me, Peter Spiegelman. I have to admit the artwork on the dustcover practically convinced my not to read this mystery, then I read 1, 2, then 3 positive reviews, and saw the copies flying off the shelf, I relented and dove into a great mystery. This is a murder-mystery that defies an easy solution. Spiegelman¿s writing and character development are second to none. I'll be reading the first two, next.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed Spiegelman's first two novels, Black Maps and Death's Little Helpers, and was looking forward to book three. What I didn't expect was just how much I would enjoy it. After getting started, I couldn't put it down, and stayed up until the wee hours just to finish. It's not so much the 'mystery' part, but rather the complexity of the characters and their inter-relationships that is so stunning. Don't get me wrong, the story itself is nuanced and full of twists and turns, but it's the relationship between March and his brother David and to the other characters that really keeps this story motoring. The quality of Spiegelman's writing is right up there with the best of them. A must read for all mystery and noir fans.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Is in the den not breathing. I am dead. Badger attack. Mistypaw your med cat name is Mistydrop. Bring me to camp and show Stormstar please.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Curlus up over steelfeathers grave.