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3.8 out of 5 stars
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3.8 out of 5 stars
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 25 February 2014
Lynne Truss has written a witty, scary, oddball, corpse-filled ,literature-loving, perfectly-punctuated, (I assume) , delight of a book.

The problem is – I can’t say very much about it without spoiling the journey which you, dear reader, need to make for yourself, without your own voyage of discovery being marred by inadvertent and carelessly strewn spoilers by this (or any) reviewer.

I was one of the very lucky ones, getting this as a very early ARC from the publisher, and all I had to go on, was this, from the fairly minimalist (great, no spoilers!) blurb:

“By acclaimed storyteller Lynne Truss, author of the bestselling Eats, Shoots and Leaves, the mesmerising tale of a cat with nine lives, and a relationship as ancient as time itself and just as powerful.

The scene: a cottage on the coast on a windy evening. Inside, a room with curtains drawn. Tea has just been made. A kettle still steams. Under a pool of yellow light, two figures face each other across a kitchen table. A man and a cat. The story about to be related is so unusual yet so terrifyingly plausible that it demands to be told in a single sitting. The man clears his throat, and leans forward, expectant.

'Shall we begin?' says the cat.”

I must admit, the dustjacket picture didn’t particularly lure me – I thought it a little bit whimsical, and feared something which might be chocolate box cutesy humour funny-ish.

But of course, I know Truss is sharp, dry and pithily rather than fluffily funny.

The story is dedicated to a friend who likes ‘proper’ horror stories, so, clearly this is going to be some sort of tickle your funny bone with horror mixture. (And more)

Okay, to try and lure you, o reader. Your cast of characters includes the above-mentioned talking cat (and another), an endearing dog (more of whom I must not say in order to avoid a spoiler) except that he belongs to a couple of academic Cambridge University librarians and is called Watson, so is the butt of several jokes which will delight Sherlockians. Then there is the central human, recently bereaved, in a Norfolk holiday cottage, with his laptop, no internet access but a previously sent folder from a fellow librarian. There is an actor who is a little slow on the uptake.There are a good few bodies. There are copious classic literature references (our man is a librarian, after all) . There is academic and historical research into occult literature.

Even if you are remarkably unacquainted and uninterested in library stacks, Victorian fiction, the history of occultism, Egyptology, demonology or preconceptions about cats and dogs, this book will I think be a page turning delight. Believe me. Our talking cat doesn’t do chat, for example, but masters Times cryptic crosswords and is highly supercilious (and other things)

As for the dedication to the friend who likes ‘proper’ horror stories, suffice it to say that in bed early in the morning, having fed the cats, and enjoying my breakfast cuppa, with a cat nestling cosily beside me I read this (I have made a few excisions to avoid spoilers)

“The exceptional cats…..aren’t the product of some sort of miracle…..they just haven’t degenerated the way all the others have….this explains such a lot about cat behaviour….When they hiss at us, you can tell that they really expect us to fall over and die…because that is what used to happen. So when we stand there, unharmed, and laughing in their faces, they’re completely miffed…..they’re conscious of having lost their ability to do serious evil, and they feel bloody humiliated”

At which point, cosy nestling cat began to talk….”Mrr…Mhaa…Mmmaaaahhr” and I must admit I had a slight ‘hairs up’ moment at the timing, and she continued to utter short little cat exclamations for no reason I could discern. Then she climbed onto my lap, gazed at me seriously, as she is wont to do, and began kneading and purring. I read on….

“You know the way cats do that trampling sort of thing on your lap……It was how cats used to kill people by pretending to be friendly and then severing their femoral arteries! Purring was the way they sent people into a trance…..”

At which point, I discreetly (not wanting to anger her) but purposefully got up and had a shower.

There is so much to enjoy in this, and I hope that I have persuaded you to read it, on publication. Believe me, this is nothing like any of those wonderful, but whimsical Paul Gallico cat books, and DEFINITELY nothing like the ‘spiritual’ fluffy cat books currently in vogue

I did feel that the final section managed the balance of horror and humour rather less well – the detecting and investigation part of the story was terrific, but the inevitable confrontation between antagonists, once deduction has happened, did see my extreme enjoyment wane a bit. I felt Truss was rather better at slow set up than at rapid action. Overall though, I absolutely recommend this

PS Any one interested in giving a home to 3 extremely good natured cats? I don’t THINK any of them know how to read emails. Well I hope not. Was that scratching behind the wainscoting………..?

Oh – and finally, such is the authenticity of Truss’s writing that even though I know (don’t I?) that this IS a fantasy, I was interested in seeing what had been thrown up in the research, and Googled some of the named characters and search terms cited by our academician and found……….(well, that would be telling, and maybe YOU will just have to see for yourself!)

PS Aficionados of Truss’s’ grammatical works: any crimes of MY grammar and punctuation above, are to be deplored. Please DON’T tell Truss about my linguistic offences.
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VINE VOICEon 5 August 2015
This is certainly a very odd book. It might not appear so to fans of Hammer Horror films as it has been written in that genre by Lynne Truss. I am a fan of her work with Pandas, and am a member of her sign-correcting gang, so I thought I'd see how she shaped up as a novelist. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to those who enjoy a lightweight read with humour and a satisfying ending. A recently widowed mild-mannered librarian is sent a series of files from an ex-colleague he barely knew. Opening them launches him (and his dog, Watson) into a bizarre world with a talking cat and a series of grisly murders. He sets out to sort out this mess and makes some friends, loses an ex-colleague and keeps Watson alive while defeating the forces of evil. And all without a sausage sandwich. Read, lol and enjoy!
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on 20 May 2014
I was compelled by the synopsis of this book to buy it. I finished it last night and I was left with WOW! My own handsome moggie was sitting at the bottom of the bed.... I look at him quite differently now and wonder what he is thinking and what he would say to me if he could. This is such an original book and Rogers character is so utterly well written that it was sometimes hard to remember that he is a very well educated and travelled feline and not a human.
The Captain was so superbly written also and I was wondering all the way through when he would appear again and nervous when he did.
If you are looking for something very different to read, then I would most certainly recommend this to you. I usually read ghost stories and horror but something said buy me, and I am grateful I did.
There are some very compelling parts that intertwine gracefully with each other and really do help to bond it all together.
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on 25 July 2014
I'm a cat lover and I adore the author's non fiction work, but nothing prepared me for just how enjoyable this was going to be. the tongue in cheek narrative, and the characters both human and feline were engaging, witty and thoroughly funny. thank you for brightening up a long train journey
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on 27 March 2014
This is good fun: I haven't read any 'proper' horror, so I don't know whether or not this should be classed as parody, or if it's usually done in this tone.

There's a suitably unnecessary framing device, a totally preposterous character, an intriguing enough plot, and a satisfying conclusion - all executed with wit and verve.

I loved that librarians, of all people, are at the centre of such an adventure, and there are lots and lots of sly jokes throughout.

Good fun, good value, good buy.

Felicitous. And I'm not even a cat person. Purrrr.
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on 28 February 2014
This is very different to what you might expect from the author of Eats, Shoots. While it has the light and humorous touch that all her writing has, she has managed to embrace her darker side. It is really tightly plotted with great characterisation (one of whom only gets two lines - or does he?). Highly recommended.
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Alec, a retired librarian has recently been widowed. He heads off to a coastal village in North Norfolk with his small dog Watson in search of peace. But one night, while searching for mental stimulation, he opens his laptop and starts looking through a folder entitled ‘Roger’ which a former colleague had sent him. Inside that folder are files in which a man called Wiggy tells the story of his acquaintance with Roger – a talking cat, who sounds like Vincent Price. In a story that spans decades, Roger tells of how he learned to speak. Alec becomes part of the story, caught up in a world that contains a mysterious cat called Captain, kidnapping, murder and satanic cults. And yes, some cats really do have nine lives.

‘Purring was the way they sent people into a trance, you see – and then, when their prey was sort of paralysed and helpless, the cats would set to work with their claws.’

The story moves at a quick pace, and I found the first half much funnier than the second. In the second half, well, things get frenetic and a little dangerous. It’s a combination of humour and horror that doesn’t always work, although I won’t be adding a cat to my household anytime soon.

I’d recommend reading this in one sitting if possible.

‘As if stories ever did end anyway.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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on 10 November 2015
It feels like I shouldn't say too much here, as I don't want to give the plot away. This is a completely mad story, beautifully written (I wouldn't expect anything less from Lynne Truss) with great characters and a filmic denoument. Great stuff!
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on 20 November 2014
Absolutely hated this book. I love all sorts of genres but this was truly stupid, the story didn't make sense, the author jumped around with no coherent structure. Hard to read at times. She had unreliable narrators so I get she's trying to get old/mad across but it was just poorly done. Some really gruesome, horrible scenes, (pit of cats slowly dying, a woman locked in a cellar scratching at the wall for days her dead dog next to her eaten by rats) there should he a warning, it's really disturbing. The story itself was so ridiculous, especially near the end, it didn't truly explain itself and then just stole a sherlock ending...I just can't get over enough how rubbish this book was and how much I hated it!!!!
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on 27 March 2014
I really wanted to like this novel - I love cats, I like Lynne Truss very much as a non-fiction writer and wit, and I'm really into black comedy - but it failed to engage on anything other than a superficial level. A few chuckles, and there's enough interest to keep you going to the end of what is after all a very short book, but that was it.
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