cover image The Cat's Meow

The Cat's Meow

R. Wright Campbell, Robert Campbell. Dutton Books, $16.95 (199pp) ISBN 978-0-453-00615-6

The fifth Jimmy Flannery mystery ( The Junkyard Dog , Thinning the Turkey Herd , etc.) should delight old readers and win new ones. Narrator Jimmy, a sewer inspector and active believer in what's left of Chicago's Democratic machine, pays a condolence call on octogenarian Father Mulrooney, who regales Jimmy with a story of the sudden, mysterious death of the old church cat, Ignatius. Matters become more serious when the priest later discovers traces of a black Mass in St. Pat's. Mulrooney's housekeeper Mrs. Thimble says the old man is imagining things; she never saw anything untoward in the church. Jimmy's political mentor Chips Devlin asks Jimmy to see if he can prevent the conversion of St. Pat's cemetery into a gas station. Very soon Jimmy is embroiled in Church and city politics, with the ever-present possibilitythis is Chicagoof scandal. Jimmy's thumbnail history of Irish Catholic Chicago, told in his own deceptively folksy way (``I never met a honest cop I didn't like''), the colorful characters and smooth writing all make for a captivating read. If there isn't a major mystery here, readers won't mind. (October)