This 13th volume in Douglas’s planned series (Cat in A Kiwi Con, 2000, etc.) sends noirish cat Midnight Louie from the mean streets of Vegas into its desert surround.
Rancho Exotica procures big cats for phony hunts, bolstering the egos of thrill-seeking big spenders like its owner, Cyrus Van Burkleo, and energizing hunt-breakers to stand tall before the guns. The ranch’s fantasy facades—whose natural environments conceal grubby cages—can’t long hide Osiris, a stolen, human-friendly performing leopard without a clue. When Van Burkleo is skewered by a trophy head’s horn, Osiris is found at the scene and charged. This catnapped victim, falsely accused, inspires Louie’s animal cohorts to save the day largely independent of their usual human partners: former clandestine operative Max Kinsella, hard-boiled Lt. Carmen Molina, and amateur sleuth Temple Barr. Louie’s world, where lions talk and street cats perform heroics, satirizes the all-too-beastly human world where the real grotesques walk the streets. (As a freak, Van Burkleo’s trophy wife Leonora, who’s surgically altered her face to resemble a leonine muzzle, pales next to serial killers of humans and animals.) A bizarre and bloody final hunt resolves the focal mystery but leaves plenty of loose ends for coming installments of what the author calls her “27-entry meganovel.”
As Douglas expands her attack on human abusers, allegiance to the whole series is more and more necessary to make sense of any individual entry. Will readers entering mid-course be enticed to the beginning, or flounder and flee?