Sunday, January 8, 2012

Book Review: Red Cat by Peter Spiegelman

Red Cat
By Peter Spiegelman

     The Huffington Post ( recently posted an article listing mystery novels which transcend the genre and are actually quite literary.  This novel was included.  The skeleton of the plot of Red Cat is actually fairly pedestrian.  A wealthy banker hires his private investigator brother to find out who the woman is that he met on the internet.  Their casual affair took a wrong turn when the woman, who the banker knows only by her internet name, starts phoning his work and home in an effort to set up further trysts.  The brother, John March, follows a long and winding route through the art world of New York, finally identifying the mysterious Wren as a failed actress and writer.  This is where the story takes a particularly nasty and different angle.  “Wren” has created video art by secretly filming her liaisons.  During the final scenes of her videos, which she sells discreetly for large sums of money, she turns the tables on her paramours and berates them for their infidelity and stupidity.

     The plot takes another wicked turn when a “Jane Doe” is found in the water, the only identifying feature on the body being a red cat tattoo which is all too familiar to her film subjects, John March’s brother included. The cast of characters who may have been involved in “Wren’s” demise is large, including the video subjects, former boyfriends and co-workers.  The author leads us down several circuitous paths before revealing the culprit, one unsuspected by this reader, in the next to last chapter.

     This is a very well written mystery, but whether it rises to the level of literature is up to each reader to decide.  The author’s prose is very descriptive, the characters are all very well developed (even the elusive “Wren”) and the pacing is perfect.  The author leaves you hanging at the end of chapters and then changes gears with the opening paragraphs of the next chapter, making the reader want to race through the book.  New York in this book is reminiscent of the New York in the best of Ed McBain’s  57th  Precinct novels.  I enjoyed Red Cat very much and would recommend it highly. 

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