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Author’s Talk and Book Signing: The Suspicions of Mr Whisker by Mandy Morton

The crime reporter is of course called Hackey Redtop

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Mandy Morton’s books certainly give one paws for thought. This is the 13th in the series of her murder mysteries where all the characters are cats. She will speak and sign copies of her latest book, The Suspicions of Mr Whisker at Waterstones in Cambridge on Wednesday, May 8.

She will be in conversation with celebrated crime author Nicola Upson.

Morton’s first book, over 10 years ago, The No 2 Feline Detective Agency was written to raise money for the cat’s rescue charity, the Blue Cross.

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In it, Mandy, a fierce cat lover (or should that be a lover of fierce cats) memorialised cats that she and Nicola had loved and lost. The intrepid feline detectives are called Tilly Jenkins and Hetty Bagshot.

Mandy says: “Our cats only go into the books after they have died, it’s a lovely way to bring them back to life. Molly Bloom, who has now opened a café in the books called Bloomers, came from the Blue Cross in Cambridge, the charity I was raising funds for.”

Though the first book was self-published, soon the series was embraced by a keen-eyed publisher and are now published by Farrago. This latest one is “In memory of Squeak, a wonderful cat who we all miss very much.”

Morton was concerned at the start that Alexander McCall-Smith, the author of the No 1 Ladies Detective Agency series might be miffed at her riff on his theme.

Mandy Morton will be speaking about her work and signing her books at Waterstones in Cambridge from 6pm on Wednesday, May 8.

Mandy Morton will be speaking about her work and signing her books at Waterstones in Cambridge from 6pm on Wednesday, May 8.

But, on the contrary, he was there enthusiastically at the launch of the second book Cat Among the Pumpkins, and they were photographed each holding the other’s books.

Mandy Morton has always liked puns. Her long-running series as an arts broadcaster on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire was called The Eclectic Light Show.

Her book titles are a delight. They include: The Death of Downton Tabby, The Ghost of Christmas Paws, and Beyond the Gravy.

For The Suspicions of Mr Whisker (title surely inspired by The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale) the crimes take place in a boarding school for wayward cats.

The school, in a village called Much Purring has been set up to give these delinquent young felines from unfortunate backgrounds a new start and a brighter future.

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But there is a spate of suicides and no less than four murders for Tilly and Hetty to solve. Part of the charm of these books is that unlike detectives in traditional fiction, who never seem to feel the cold or need to sleep or eat, these cats enjoy the warmth of blankets and real fires and the most delicious meals.

They live at the back of the bakery run by Betty and Beryl Butter who make the most enticing pies.

The detail in the book could double as a guide for superior entertaining. In a chapter called Tea with Miss Toddlebury, the cats sit down to: “Beef, chicken and salmon sandwiches, all with the crusts cut off, a giant pork pie, cheese and fruit scones, a Victoria sandwich, and an assortment of small buns, iced and sprinkled with hundreds and thousands.”

Much of the dialogue is amusingly retro. It evokes a lost world. Bruiser, the chauffeur, and general strong body, is told at one point: “Don’t just stand there like cheese at fourpence.”

The crime reporter is of course called Hackey Redtop who writes for The Sunday Snout.

Not all the cats are likable of course. Lavender Stamp, who runs the post office, is a harsh character who delights in upsetting her customers.

Her mood lifts for a while when she falls in love but then her bloke Laxton Spratt lets her down.

So, by the end of the book, she has reverted to type. “Lavender was as spiteful as ever to her customers, her queues were even longer, and her love affair had melted away with the early spring snow.

She had secretly vowed to herself that if she ever felt the need for a companion again, she would knit one.”

The Suspicions of Mr Whisker is published by Farrago at £9.99.

Mandy Morton will be speaking about her work and signing her books at Waterstones in Cambridge from 6pm on Wednesday, May 8.

 

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