THE CATS by Joan Phipson


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Where Household's Escape Into Daylight (p. 974, J-308) was a matter of calculated logistics, Phipson serves up a double kidnapping aborted by the blunders of two small-town punks and transformed into a common ordeal of terror. After Socker, the plot's nominal mastermind, loses his Car keys and strands the group in their Outback hideout, Jim and his outdoors-wise, seemingly psychic brother Willie, who had been the intended victims, take charge. Then Socket runs afoul of an eerie band of ""big cats"" who stalk him--and the others--with murderous intent, and only Willie, who knows about the cats and wants to keep their existence secret from the world, can save the others from death by savaging. Phipson steers a fine line between sci-fi horror and the natural hysteria of the lost and starving youths. She ends with an actual newspaper clipping from Australia describing a plague of dangerous feral cats weighing up to 25 pounds, but her cats loom much larger than that in the reader's mind. And while we have' only Willie's word for it that the cats are seeking personal revenge for Socker's murder of a kitten, no one is likely to question that interpretation until all concerned are safe at home. Whether the cats are supernatural avengers or merely another hazard of the desolate central Australian bush country, Phipson's command of the terrain and of the skittish personalities of the would-be kidnappers makes the danger menacingly real. This has the metaphysical cutting edge of The Way Home (1973) but it's wielded with a dexterity and restraint lacking in that more self-conscious venture.

Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1976
Publisher: Atheneum