By MARY CAMPBELL
"Scratch the Surface" by Susan Conant (Berkley Prime Crime, 279 Pages, $22.95).
After writing 16 mysteries in which dogs are prominent, Susan Conant tackles a more crowded field -- mysteries featuring cats.
She obviously has made it a priority that her first entry in feline sleuthing, "Scratch the Surface," will be different from the others.
Cats got her tongue
Her main character, Felicity Pride, is a 53-year-old author of cat mysteries who doesn't have a cat and doesn't know much about them. She reads cat mysteries and refers to cats who talk to each other and cats who rather mysteriously communicate crime solutions to their humans. Readers of the genre know exactly what she's talking about.
Felicity comes home one night to find the body of a stranger in her vestibule, between her outer unlocked door and her locked front door. With him is a beautiful cat.
Felicity takes the cat in and decides that she, like her fictional heroine, will figure out who killed the stranger.
She discovers who he is when she takes the cat to a vet and he finds an identifying microchip. She goes to the man's house and rescues a second cat. The detective on the case seems to be growing romantically interested in Felicity and not put off by her visiting the victim's home and reporting it later.
Felicity is a rather insecure person and not really lovable, as when she attends the man's funeral in search of material for her books. The reader is glad that the detective, at least, likes her.
But neither of them learns who the murderer is for a long time. At least the cats, playing a prominent part as in all cat mysteries -- Conant does allow that much -- don't tell them.