Series review: The Joe Grey mysteries by Shirley Rousseau Murphy

    Cat lovers, here's a mystery series for you!  If you love Lillian Jackson Braun, you just might like Shirley Rousseau Murphy.  Equally cozy, the Joe Grey series is enchanting in many of the same ways as the Braun's series. While Braun's settings vary, the main locale, Moose County, is "400 miles north of everywhere." Usually acknowledged as Bad Axe, Michigan, Braun lived there for years. With Murphy, the charming setting is a small coastal village in California which strongly resembles the author's home, Carmel, right down to the rich elite and unique boutiques. With Braun,you have Jim Qwilleran, writer and bachelor, and his two enigmatic Siamese cats, Koko and YumYum.  Murphy's books have a wide cast of characters that focus on Joe Grey, the tailless tom who talks; his somewhat combative friend/housemate Clyde Damen; Dulcie, Joe's gentle but also talking lady who loves to steal lingerie; and her friend/housemate, Wilma, a tough retired probation officer.  Braun's New Age cat implications become outright fantasy in Murphy's intelligent cats.  Over the years, she has developed a backhistory of these sentient cats dating back to the Celts.
    The town of Molena Point, California, is  rife with crime, of course, just like Moose County. The cats are uniquely positioned, often literally on a roof or in a tree, to spy on criminal activity. Even when in plain view, few criminals see them as potential witnesses. Every book has some of the same fun features--the cats trying to give the police tips on the phone, without implicating their friends. Finding a private moment with an anonymous phone gets harder and harder! Slipping into the police station to keep up on cases becomes more difficult, too, as the police chief, Clyde's friend Max Harper, is getting suspicious, while simultaneously doubting his own sanity. The occasional romantic element adds variety to the plot twists.  Cat on the edge was the first volume in 1996: Murphy will be releasing her 17th book, Cat telling tales, in November 2011. ~Tessa Eger

Jacket cover: Cat on the edge