cover image The Cat Saw Murder

The Cat Saw Murder

Dolores Hitchens. Penzler, $25.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-61316-212-5

Fans of astute amateur elderly sleuths will be delighted by this suspenseful mystery from Hitchens (1907–1973), first published in 1939. Seventy-year-old Rachel Murdock travels to Breakers Beach, Calif., at the request of her 40-ish niece-by-marriage, Lily Sticklemann, to help with some unspecified trouble. Upon Rachel’s arrival, Lily reveals she’s deeply in debt. Initially unforthcoming about how she got into this predicament, Lily eventually admits that she lost money gambling at cards. Then someone spikes Rachel’s medicine with morphine and takes advantage of her incapacity to beat in Lily’s head. Rachel aids the official police, and Lily’s pet cat plays a vital role by providing a clue to the identity of the killer, who claims another victim before the dramatic reveal. Hitchens’s use of foreshadowing elevates this above similar whodunits. That the observant Rachel is an appealing Jessica Fletcher antecedent makes the prospect of her further exploits in the American Mystery Classics series welcome. (June)