cover image The Man Who Understood Cats

The Man Who Understood Cats

Michael Allen Dymmoch. Minotaur Books, $21.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-312-09332-7

Winner of the publisher's Best First Malice Domestic Novel award in 1991, this assured and unusual debut boasts expressive language and sinewy notions of suspense. We never know the quiet, compulsive accountant whose death the police suspect wasn't suicide (a lefty wouldn't likely use his right hand to pull the trigger). The case brings together the victim's prominent psychiatrist, Jack Caleb, and streetwise police officer John Thinnes. From the moment the two meet, their stories, their conflict and their grudging mutual admiration lead the reader far into the troubled hearts of both men. Jack is enduring the death of a lover and the alarming aftermath of his Vietnam experience. John's marriage is unraveling under long work hours and silences that echo with resentment and hurt. Both men are looking for the killer in a plot that extends to the victim's possession of a lithograph, an art gallery, a dead young artist, a tortured father and a large real estate empire. The unmasking of the murderer comes as a shock to the reader who, having been drawn so deep into the lives of Jack and John, will have all but forgotten that a mystery awaits a solution. A cunning, adroit debut by a pseudonymous author. (May)