How much is a cat worth? What if it's a uniquely distinctive animal, tan on his right side, black on his left, whose handlers at a Manhattan animal shelter warn has had problems even before he's abducted the day after Alice Nestleton's friend Amanda Avery adopts him? Amanda is perfectly willing to pay $15,000 for the safe return of Jake, but when Alice trails her to the ransom drop-off, she finds Amanda dead on a lonely West Side comer, with Jake unharmed in her arms. The fatal catnapping is only the first indication that something is seriously screwy here. The second is the number of secrets Alice and her longtime squeeze, stage designer Tony Basillio, find in Amanda's closet. Undeterred by the fact that they're suspected by the police, who obviously haven't read Alice's first 16 adventures (A Cat on Stage Left, p. 369, etc.), Alice and Tony learn that, besides being an obsessive and unemployed Virginia Woolf scholar, Amanda was the widow of a prosperous shoe manufacturer, the lover of a much younger playwright, and an accomplished dancer, songwriter, and adapter of Woolf's masterly Mrs. Dalloway to the stage. So extensive is Amanda's secret life, in fact, that for a while Jake seems to be an extra piece in the puzzle--until Alice and Tony find out about his own secret past as a seasoned accomplice in a charming criminal scare. As usual, Adamson's inventiveness runs its course too early. But fans will treasure this installment for the scene in which the disappointingly bland killer apologizes to the lead cat.