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Shadow of a Cat by Poppy Nottingham
Let me first describe what happened as I read this book. I picked it up at a jumble sale and started to read it. I thought it was rather boring reading to begin with and it took a while for me to get to the middle, when the action started to pick up. Just as I reached this point, I lost the book. I had laid it on the couch and it disappeared. I searched in, out, all around and could not find it. Just before Christmas, I had to move the couch in order to make room for a piano. Still no sign of the couch. During the winter, we spent little time in the living room due to the cold, which we could not overcome. As the weather improved, we spent more time there. After weeks of sitting and messing around the couch, with the cushions removed and all, the book finally resurfaced all of a sudden last week. Very strange, but after finishing the book, I wonder if it wasn't best for it to have remained hidden. That might give you an indication of how I felt about it.

The story could have been very good, but it was too flawed, in my opinion. I hated the characters. There wasn't a one I could sympathise with. At times, I wasn't sure if the author was trying to be deep and profound or just making a character sound like it. It didn't go over very well. The heroine acted stupidly. The fact that she was "ill" for part of the story couldn't excuse it for me. Her attempts to solve a mystery and apprehend a killer were a bit far-fetched, as were her erroneous conclusions. As with many stories that seemingly had too many disconnected elements, the only way to get to the solution is via a confession, which occurs at the end. Then, for the characters (and author) to explain away the murderer's behaviour as mental illness is ridiculous. Perhaps it's because I know that normal human beings can behave irrationally at times when they feel threatened in some way. It does not mean they are mentally disturbed, except temporarily.

Just to summarise the plot so that you may understand a little better. Sarah, or Sunny, goes to Canada at her mother's invitation for her mother's fourth marriage. The setting is an old Scottish castle transplanted to Canada. (Oh, and I have tired of that theme of the castle is SO big that our heroine still can't find her way to a particular place even after spending weeks there - I think I need to find myself a castle to get lost in) These are all liberated characters, such that there is no respect for anyone's elders. Children never refer to their parents as "mom" or "dad". It's "Gina" and "Ben". There is the requisite little antagonism between Sunny and Hugh, Ben's son, and several other interested parties, "Ruth", "Andrea", "Evelyn", "Gar", and "Nick". The story only picks up when Gina and Ben have an argument and Gina runs off just before the wedding. They eventually find her in the animal conservatory, which borders the estate, mauled by a cougar. Prior to this, she had been receiving threatening letters and even Sunny gets them when she arrives. Poorly executed plotting and characterisation in dealing with the incredulity that Sunny faces from all the other characters when she suggests that Gina's death was actually murder, even when all the evidence points to foul play. Then, as Sunny escapes and tries to flee the castle, the murderer, whose intent it was for her to just leave (and there is no evidence to suggest that it was "too late" for her to do that), goes after her to explain about Gina's death and to kill Sunny. As I said, it could have been good and could have been handled better by a more experienced writer.

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