Trigger Warning: The book reviewed mentions, although does not directly depict, abusive relationships for one of its female characters. While only the most basic and necessary images are very briefly painted to show readers the nature of these relationships, survivors of such situations should proceed with caution.
For this post, I’m going to review Of Cats and Sea Monsters, book two of the Cat Daddies Mysteries by Wren Cavanagh. This novella, brought to us by the author of “Goblin’s Amends”, consists of magic, mystery, and traces of gruesome monster action. Cavanagh graciously sent me an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review and, as with Summer of Magic, I was more than happy to read it.
At 162 pages, this story carries quite the eclectic symphony of plot threads. To give you a proper idea, here’s a rough recipe for Of Cats and Sea Monsters:
- Start with one cup of That Darn Cat
- Add a pound of Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and All Dogs Go to Heaven
- Sprinkle a pinch of reverse- Dolittle
- Finally, stir in sea monsters, demonic creatures, and human greed until your heart pounds.
The book starts by introducing readers to Pekkala “Pekkie” Kobold, a worker from Urchin Cove’s local library, as she prepares to take pictures of two merman-like sea monsters at Green Waters Marina. Instead of capturing images that would’ve made Ripley jealous, Pekkie finds herself documenting one man murdering another in cold blood on a nearby boat. Fast forward two weeks and her beloved cat, Macaroni, is brought into Dr. All L. Medley by the chief of police. With the cat starved and injured and the Kobold home thrashed, one question is on everyone’s minds: where are Pekkie Kobold and her husband?
What ensues is a tangled web of mystery, crime, red herrings, and one cat determined to solve it all: Jericho, Dr. All’s cat sent by the Almighty to protect the residents, both human and animal, of Urchin Cove.
Cavanagh skillfully releases hints throughout the novella that let the reader determine who is responsible for Pekkie’s disappearance, but you won’t be entirely sure until close to the end. I thought I knew about halfway through but I still questioned myself until a couple chapters before the epilogue.
This story contains more mystery than this one disappearance. Added to the mix are a third missing person, a priceless watch that’s nowhere to be found, and the sea monsters Pekkie tried so hard to capture on camera the night she witnessed the murder.
More enthralling than the mysteries are the characters themselves. Cavanagh gives readers All, the new and reckless (with his own safety) vet with a thing for Chief Gallia; Rain, the crooked and secretive mayor; Edith, the elderly guardian of the town; Ness, the flirtatious rookie officer, and her crush Ray Black Otter; and Morgana, a small, innocent kitten taken in by All and Jericho. Last but certainly not least we have Jericho himself, a wise—and occasionally wise-ass—cat who knows just which strings to pull in order to solve all the mysteries and combat the numerous negative influences threatening the small Oregon town.
Even the two sea monsters serve an intriguing role beyond their pivotal parts in the plot. In a way, these creatures act as a symbol for Pekkie’s husband and ex-boyfriend. They seem kind and tamable at first but are quick to turn into ravenous, blood-thirsty beasts once they trick you into getting too close to them. The parallel works in other ways but, due to the possibility of spoilers, I will leave my analyses at that. Suffice to say that whether or not Cavanagh consciously constructed this symbol, it raises the intelligence of the narrative to a level it may not have achieved otherwise.
This book grabbed me from page one and ripped me through a heart-racing narrative that makes me want to read more. Sometimes I was a little lost as this is the second book in a series. However, Cavanagh immediately catches new readers up without having to read the first book and without bogging down the story too severely. Of course, I still plan to read the first installation. It’s just nice to be able to pick up whichever book I come across and understand what’s happening.
Vivid imagery and not-so-subtle socio-politico-economic commentary piqued my interest early on, and these elements continued to captivate me throughout the story. Cavanagh handles the action scenes with a much better mastery of pace than in “Goblin’s Amends”. They are gripping, heart-pounding, and quick but not too quick.
Still, the story is not without its flaws.
I noticed several grammatical errors, including oddly-fragmented sentences, run-on sentences, and missing commas. I tried but could not justify these errors based on writing style or the context of the narrative. As a fellow writer, the editing issues distracted me. As a reader, however, I had to continue; Cavanagh depicts such an engaging world and relatable characters that I simply had to find out what happened.
The dialogue for the humans comes across rather stiff as well. There is, sometimes, an awkward lack of contractions. Nevertheless, these speech patterns work for animals like Jericho and Macaroni. I can’t put my finger on it but the formal speech for Jericho and the broken speech for Macaroni fit their respective speakers, a trend which continues for all the domestic and wild animals.
I had a hard time suspending disbelief for some events of the story, such as when a character had a “feeling” they should go somewhere. While that does happen in real life, it can be too coincidental in fiction. Cavanagh also introduces so many characters that, at times, I got confused as to who was whom. Not all the players maintain a significant role in this novella, though I caution against judging the story for it as it is part of a series. We all know that in one book a character will seem inconsequential but will then become the hero of the next. All we can do is wait and see what Cavanagh does with this vast population in upcoming installations.
The ending bewildered me. It got my blood pumping and I can’t wait for the next book. Still, the section titled “1935” felt out-of-place and I was confused about who most of the characters were. This issue is cleared up by the final paragraph, but I scratched my head for a while and had to re-read that section. I can’t discuss anything else without giving crucial plot points away, so I’ll let you read the book and assess the end for yourself.
If you love mystery, magic, sea monsters, and cats, I strongly recommend Of Cats and Sea Monsters. You’ll be glad it’s a quick read; you won’t be able to put the e-book away until you’re finished. I can’t wait to see what else Cavanagh has in store for All and Jericho.
To snag your copy for only $0.99, follow the ad below.
Here’s a bonus: the e-book concludes with a free copy of “Goblin’s Amends” from Summer of Magic.
Want another bonus? All of the July proceeds are going to the campaign “Help Grey Beat Cancer!” You don’t have to buy Cavanagh’s novella to support this cause. Just follow this link to the GoFundMe page and donate directly.
For more information about Wren Cavanagh, Notch Publishing, and future Jericho books, be sure to visit their website.