My thanks to Farrago Books and NetGalley for a review copy of this book.
The Cat and the Pendulum is a whimsical and delightful mystery by Mandy Morton brimming with puns, food, and fun but also a solid mystery (in fact, two … no, make that three) at its core. This is book 10 in the series centred around Miss Hettie Bagshott who runs a detective agency with her friend and sidekick Miss Tilly Jenkins. Only Hettie and Tilly just happen to be tabbies and their agency—the No 2 Feline Detective Agency (no prizes for guessing that pun). This rather innovative series is set in an alternative cat world, which is much like our human one, with the exception that there aren’t any police in the picture. This is only the second book I have read in the series, and they’re easy enough to follow as standalones.
In The Cat and the Pendulum, Hettie and Tilly return from a week-long seaside holiday to find a letter from none other than the Queen of Crime, Agatha Crispy, summoning them to London to look into a case she has for them. Both ladies are excited, and Tilly who’s been reading all about a copycat killer committing murders like Jake the Nipper in the same neighbourhood, Kitzrovia, is convinced this is the case Agatha is handing to them. But when they arrive, they find that what Miss Crispy wants them to look into is the theft of her latest manuscript which has disappeared without reaching her publishers. Being the only copy since all her work is ‘top secret’ until published, its value is immense. They begin to look into all the cats who visit Miss Crispy regularly and also those employed in her home. Meanwhile, as they are to stay in an inn run by Miss Crispy’s cook, Mrs Croop which just happens to be located in Kitzrovia, they get a chance to look into the copycat killer as well. They soon find that many of the cats that are associated with Miss Crispy have some or other connection with Kitzrovia as well, from running shops or establishments or acting at the theatre there. Kitzrovians also seem to be engaged in making the most of the Jake the Nipper legend, and exploit it for the businesses in what seems to Hettie and Tilly to be a rather morbid and disrespectful way, and many don’t take well to Hettie and Tilly’s interventions. Hettie and Tilly investigate both matters while also exploring all Kitzrovia has to offer.
What I love about these books is how Morton manages to fill them with puns and catty elements in just the right balance without going too far or over the top with them. So, in this book while we have the title of course and Agatha Crispy, Boris Katloff on television, presenting theories on the Jake the Nipper murders, Twiglet in Vanity Fur magazine modelling clothes, or the fake French Madame Two Paws running her museum, Mr Dickens, Sherlock Holmes and Stratford Upon Avon remain as they are as does Miss Crispy’s Mousetrap! I also loved the little touches that she adds like Agatha Crispy enjoying her bowl of cream every day much like her real-life counterpart who relished her Devonshire clotted cream.
And like the last book in the series, in this one too, Mandy Morton puts Enid Blyton to shame in terms of the food in it. The sheer amount of food these tabbies (and their friends) eat is jaw dropping—pies and baps, sausage rolls and pasties, custard slices and trifles, scones and tea cake, and much much much more. And having just had a meal is no impediment to having a whole other one. Just reading about them makes one hungry!
Both mystery threads in the book were interesting, and as in the other book I read, these aren’t cosy in any way—Jake the Nipper’s murders were rather gruesome, and in the present too, some of the cats are as ruthless and degenerate as humans, as are their motivations. To add to the mysteries were also the original Jake the Nipper murders which Tilly certainly also wants the answer to. The resolutions too, are fairly unexpected and come with their own bit of danger and drama.
If you love cats and if you love mysteries, you will adore this one.
Find a fun discussion of this book between Rekha at the Book Decoder’s cats, Peter and Peppy, here!