Dying novelist Elliot Traynor and his trophy wife Vivi have fled New York for peaceful Molena Point, California, so that Elliot can complete his last novel and oversee the premiere of his first play, a historical drama called Thorns of Gold, based on local lore. But Vivi’s condescension and Elliot’s erratic behavior trigger animosity in the coastal village. And why are the latest chapters in Elliot’s work-in-progress so inferior to his earlier stuff? Young, not-so-talented Fern and talented, not-so-young Cora Lee vie for the play’s leading role, passionate Catalina. Hours after their callback, each is attacked by an anonymous intruder, one fatally. Sounds like a job for talking cat sleuths Joe Grey and Dulcie. In this seventh outing (Cat Spitting Mad, 2001, etc.), the feline Nick and Nora have their paws full, solving the crime while looking after an overcurious feline known only as “the kit” and watching over their human acquaintances. (A sublime running joke of the series is that Joe and Dulcie have more stable lives and relationships than any of their human friends.) Subplots abound, threading a large cast of series regulars through the main storyline. As Susan Brittain and four quirky friends, calling themselves the Senior Survival Club, search for a bargain house in which to live out their golden years together, Joe, Dulcie, and the kit monitor and coach the dating lives of their unattached human providers.
The unwieldy plot has loose ends everywhere, but the series premise remains delicious, executed with wry pungency and affection for life’s small pleasures.