Cover image for Please do feed the cat
Title:
Please do feed the cat
Author:
Babson, Marian.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Thomas Dunne Books, [2004]

©2004
Physical Description:
192 pages; 22 cm
Language:
English
Geographic Term:
ISBN:
9780312284985
Format :
Book

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Central Library FICTION Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Angola Public Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Clarence Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Concord Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Julia Boyer Reinstein Library FICTION Adult Fiction Mystery/Suspense
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Summary

Summary

Author Lorinda Lucas returns from a book tour of the United States to find that Roscoe, the cat who lives next door, is in alarming shape. Hoping that whatever has hit poor Roscoe will not be caught by her two cats, Had-I and But-Known, she learns from her friend Freddie that both Roscoe and his owner, Lorinda's neighbor "Macho Magee," are more or less prisoners of another author, one Cressie Adair. For an unknown reason, Cressie has decided to move not only into the colony of mystery writers but straight into Macho's house, life, and all nine lives of his cat. For Roscoe, that means an exclusive diet consisting of very small portions of feline health foods. And then Macho, well, his pen name does fit the thrillers he writes, but his real name, Lancelot Dalrymple, is a much better description of the meek little author he actually is. He's restricted to a "health" diet himself, and can do no more for poor Roscoe than surreptitiously leave a window open so the hungry beast can escape to where he might find some real food....

Any colony of crime writers, even though their books are as different as Cressie's "chick lit" and Macho's heavy thrillers, can be expected to contain a good bit of contention. But not many authors are ready to go for murder away from the printed page. In this delightful tale, with its undertone of sweetly malicious humor about self-important writers, you can depend on finding actual homicide: Please Do Feed the Cat comes complete with a murder as well as a cast of writers as varied as their books. Trust Marian Babson for another happy read.


Author Notes

Marian Babson Author Marian Babson was born in Salem, Massachusetts but spent the better part of her life living in London, England. Marian Babson a pseudonym for Ruth Stenstreem. Babson has held many jobs that included a librarian, manager of a campaign headquarters, a receptionist/secretary to commercial artists, and a co-editor of a machine-knitting magazine. She also served as secretary to the Crime Writers' Association.

Some of Babson's many titles include "The Multiple Cat" (1999), , "Miss Petunia's Last Case" (1997), "Fatal Fortune" (1987), "Death Beside the Seaside" (1982), "Murder, Murder, Little Star" (1977) and "There Must Be Some Mistake" (1975), Retreat from Murder, (2004), Only the Cat Knows, (2005) and No Cooperation from the Cat, (2012).

(Bowker Author Biography)


Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Marian Babson's latest cozy, Please Do Feed the Cat, immerses the reader in English village life, after a witty swipe at the kind of graphic crime fiction typical of Patricia Cornwell. A cast of delightful characters, including cats, plus long, loving descriptions of food compensate for a less than compelling mystery involving a fatal hit-and-run "accident." Agent, Dominick Abel. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved


Excerpts

Excerpts

Please Do Feed the Cat Chapter One Only the long rusty blonde strands adhering to the shattered skull of the decomposing body suggested that it had once been a woman, possibly an attractive one. Now it was just a breeding ground for maggots. 'Make a tidy little profit if we could bag those things and sell them to the local fishermen for bait,' Sergeant Bullwhip quipped merrily . 'Mmm, yes ...' Abstractedly, his companion thrust her bare hand through the squirming mass in the region of the abdomen and pulled out a gold ring; a long slimy maggot-infested string of intestine slid away as she lifted it. She shook the ring free of the remaining maggots before inspecting it. One of the maggots struck Sergeant Bullwhip on the corner of his mouth. He recoiled instinctively, then pulled himself together, hawked deeply and spat. A glistening globule of green-hued sputum struck the earth just short of the corpse's outstretched fingers. 'Interesting ...' Dr Sheherazade Wollinski observed. 'It looks as though she swallowed her wedding ring shortly before she died.' She took another look at the jawbone with some teeth unaccounted for and added, 'Either that - or someone rammed it down her throat.' 'Autopsy will tell us that, won't it?' Sergeant Bullwhip asked eagerly. 'Possibly, possibly,' Dr Sheherazade said. 'Have them remove the body to my dissecting room. It should be ready for us by midafternoon. We'll have time for lunch first. 'And, Bullwhip, bring along your smelling salts. This is going to be a juicy one ...' Lorinda allowed the book to slip to the floor from her nerveless grasp. Whatever had happened, she wondered, to the concept of reading as entertainment? Now it appeared to be an endurance contest as to how many pages the reader could get through before throwing up. Had-I and But-Known moved forward to investigate the object that had just joined the others like it on the floor. Long experience should have taught them that oblong things with fluttering pages were unlikely sources of food but, obviously, hope sprang eternal in the feline breast. Not that she could talk. She stared ruefully at the stack of paperbacks still to be breached. It had seemed like such a good idea when she had recklessly filled her carry-on bag with what she thought was loot from the airside bookshop just before boarding her flight home. Other parcels of books from the mystery bookshops she had visited during her two-week tour of the States (plus another ten days added on as a vacation) would be arriving shortly by post. She hoped she would enjoy them more than these last-minute impulse buys. Still, she needed to keep up with what was currently popular over there. Thankfully, however, there was no rush about it - not now that she was safely home. She leaned back and closed her eyes for a moment, savouring the peace and quiet - and the memory of that glorious moment of awakening this morning when, exhausted and disorientated, she had groped for her travelling clock with the ever-present worry: What time do I have to check out of this hotel room? The clock wasn't there and she had opened her eyes to the blissful realization that she was home in her own bed. I don't! I don't have to check out and move on! I don't have to be anywhere or do anything. I can stay in bed for the whole day if I like! In celebration of which, she had stretched,turned over and not surfaced again for another hour and a half. Only a year ago, she would not have believed that she could feel so happily contented in this house. At that time, Dorian King, famous mystery writer and doyen of the mystery world, had discovered the peaceful little village of Brimful Coffers and begun a determined campaign to turn it into his own fiefdom. Chivvied, perhaps slightly bullied, but definitely lured by the promise of a colony of like-minded friends and colleagues forming a retreat from the rigours of city life and its problems, a group of mystery writers had allowed themselves to be persuaded to move here. As Dorian had painted the scene, it had sounded ideal and, as with all things that seemed too good to be true, it wasn't. During their first bleak winter, their refuge was stalked by a half-mad killer - also thoughtfully introduced into their midst by Dorian - playing a deadly game. The killer had been caught and judged unfit to plead and was now in Broadmoor, 'detained', as the saying went, 'at the Queen's pleasure and the taxpayers' displeasure'. After which, life had gradually settled back into a more normal routine. Perhaps Dorian was right, after all. Certainly, it had been comforting to know that the cats had been able to remain in their own home while she was away, cared for by neighbours Freddie Carlson (creator of the Wraith O'Reilly series) and Macho Magee, sweet and mild ex-history teacher, who wrote the rough-tough-Macho Magee books and was completely under the paw of his own enormous ginger cat, Roscoe. It had been even more comforting to open the fridge door after the long taxi ride home from her red-eye flight and discover that Freddie had thoughtfully stocked it with the basics, so that she was able to have a late brunch of scrambled eggs on toast when she awoke. Later, perhaps, she would go out and do a bit of shopping. Or perhaps she wouldn't. Freddie had providedenough so that it wasn't immediately necessary. There were also the contents of the store cupboard. A tin of soup with, perhaps, more toast would do nicely for an early evening meal, followed by an early evening. She yawned and the cats yawned back at her companionably. She ought to ring Freddie and say thank you, but she was just so tired ... The snick of the cat flap in the kitchen distracted her, as well as alerting Had-I and But-Known. They turned towards the doorway, waiting. The bedraggled orange cat who staggered into the room was not immediately identifiable. It was only when Had-I and But-Known went over to him and he greeted them with a faint meow that she recognized him. 'Roscoe!' she cried. What's happened to you?' Sensing sympathy and a new audience, he tottered over to her and began a long, pathetic account of his woes. Had-I and But-Known began to wash his face, one on each side of him. 'Poor darling!' Lorinda stroked his head, which seemed larger than usual and unusually bony. 'You've lost weight. Lots of it. Are you all right?' Disquiet, bordering on panic, rose in her. She must ring Macho and find out if Roscoe was ill. And whether it was anything contagious. Had-I and But-Known began shouldering Roscoe back towards the kitchen. Lorinda stood and followed them, watching in amazement as they took him straight to their feeding bowls and seemed to be encouraging him to help himself. He needed no urging. With a faint pathetic mewl of gratitude, he plunged in. Her cats then turned and gave her an accusing look. If she had been here, they seemed to say, this wouldn't have happened. But what had happened? She had only arrived back late last night and had slept nearly the clock around. Still feeling the vaguely time-out-of-joint lassitude of jetlag, she had postponed getting in touch with anyone until later - muchlater - in the day. Perhaps it was Macho who had been taken ill and was, perforce, neglecting Roscoe. The cats had gone back to washing their friend, offering what comfort they could along with their food. He wasn't eating quite so quickly now, but with steady determination, as though he didn't know where his next meal was coming from and so he was making sure of this one. Lorinda started for the phone. She'd better call Freddie and find out what had been happening in her absence. She had just reached the phone when it rang. 'Welcome home!' Freddie said. 'Do you really feel you're back yet, or do you still feel half-here and half-there?' 'Half and half,' Lorinda confirmed. 'It will take a few days to get back on this time plane. It's not so bad going over, more like an extra-long day, but it's a killer coming in this direction. Time goes so skew-whiff that nothing seems quite real.' 'It's all dreamlike,' Lorinda agreed. 'I was going to ring you later, when I got a little more awake.' 'Oh, sorry. Shall I ring back?' 'No, I'm awake now. And curious. What have I missed while I've been away?' 'Now there's a question. Where to start?' 'How about with Roscoe? He popped in a few minutes ago and I almost didn't recognize him. Is he all right?' 'He's sick as a parrot,' Freddie said. 'And, if you think he's miserable, wait until you see Macho!' 'But what --' 'I'll come round,' Freddie interrupted. 'It's too much to go into over the phone. Or would you rather come here?' 'I'd rather stay right where I am, if you don't mind. I've had enough moving from place to place to last me quite a while.' 'That's what I thought,' Freddie said. 'I'll be right over.' 'Oh, but I don't have anything for tea --' 'Don't worry,' Freddie said. 'I'll bring some snacks along- there's plenty for all of us. I'm awash with the stuff at the moment.' It seemed she had hardly put the phone down when Freddie was at the door with a carrier bag full of bowls and small bulging bags. The cats raced up to their visitor eagerly. 'That's right,' she told them. 'There's more than enough for everybody.' Roscoe headbutted her ankle enthusiastically, his purr throbbing out. 'Oh, yes?' Freddie stopped and stroked the bony head. 'Do you love me, or is it what's in the bags? Not that I'd blame you, poor baby.' 'What's the matter with him?' A faint rising panic swept over Lorinda. 'It's nothing contagious, is it?' 'No, no, nothing serious. Not to anyone else. It's pretty devastating to Roscoe, though. They've put him on a diet.' 'A diet? Macho has put Roscoe on a diet?' She couldn't believe it. 'I didn't think Macho knew the meaning of the word diet.' 'Not Macho. Cressie.' 'Cressie? Who's Cressie?' 'Well you may ask.' Freddie shrugged out of her coat and tossed it across an armchair. 'You do have a lot of catching up to do. Cressie is living with Macho now.' 'Macho has hired a housekeeper?' She registered the amused twitch of Freddie's lips and moved on to the next obvious conclusion. 'A girlfriend? Macho has a girlfriend?' 'Of sorts. It may be more accurate to say the girlfriend has Macho. I'm not sure how happy he is with the situation, but he doesn't know how to get out of it.' 'Macho ...' Lorinda was still stunned. 'I thought he was so traumatized by his divorce that he was never going to get involved again. How many years ago was it?' 'Yonks,' Freddie said cheerfully. 'And then he stumbles across the most unsuitable woman in the world and lets her move in with him. I'd say it serves the bloody idiot right - but nobody deserves Cressie. Especially not poor Roscoe. She doesn't know the difference between putting him on a diet and starving him to death.' 'Poor Roscoe.' Lorinda still found it hard to believe, but Roscoe's scrawny state was proof of it. 'When did all this happen?' 'Just a couple of days after you left. Macho had to go up to London for an editorial conference. I gather it wasn't quite what he'd expected. He went from there to a publishing party and began drinking. Cressie was there and she'd had bad news, too, so they drank together and went on somewhere else to continue drinking when the party was over. He's a little vague about what actually happened that night, but the upshot was that she came back here with him and has been here ever since.' 'Macho? Macho got drunk? Picked up some woman? And she's living with him? Here?' It was what his character Macho Magee would have done without a second thought, but Macho's real name was Lancelot Dalrymple and it suited his own character. 'I can't imagine Lancelot Dalrymple sweeping a woman off her feet!' 'I wouldn't take any bets as to who carried whom over the threshold,' Freddie said. 'And it's not just any woman. It's Cressie Adair!' 'Cressie Adair?' Lorinda frowned. 'The name sounds faintly familiar, but ...' 'She made a big splash a few years ago with Hello, I'm on a Bus. It was the cutting edge of Chick Lit - and so was she. Tall, leggy, blonde - she was everywhere. You saw her picture every time you turned around. I began to think it was illegal to produce a talk show that didn't feature her. Fortunately for them, she was very opinionated. She still is.' 'Oh, yes, it's coming back to me ... didn't she also write Mooning the Builders?' 'That was her second. It struck quite a chord with a lot of Upwardly Mobiles who'd bought substandard houses to renovate and were head-to-head with the cowboy builders who'd given them the lowest quote and started bumping up the charges every time they turned around. Not to mention doing a lousy job.' 'Wasn't that almost autobiographical?' Lorinda frowned again. 'I seem to remember something about accusations and threats and law suits ... but I can't remember the outcome.' 'It all went quiet. Settled out of court, I suppose, but it was publicity for the book. And the publicity went stratospheric when she got her bum tattooed on TV with a two-fingered salute to those builders.' 'That rings a bell.' 'It should. She's used that picture of the other end of her anatomy for the author's photo on her jackets ever since. Clever of her, really ...' Freddie nodded acknowledgement. 'She can use that picture for the rest of her life and no one can gainsay her. Quite unlike the rest of us, who have to update the old phizz every ten years or so.' 'Didn't she have a weekly column in one of the tabloids at some point?' 'Briefly, I think. The novelty of the "author's photo" at the top of the column wore off and, I gather, her opinions weren't always in line with the proprietor's. Also, her last book Another Bloody Atrium didn't do quite so well. Perhaps she should get another tattoo.' 'Good heavens!' Lorinda shook her head, feeling groggy. 'But, even more, I can't see her with Macho --' 'He must have really tied one on,' Freddie said. 'And so must she. Her usual prey had titles and bank accounts in seven figures. Who can explain it? It must be love. No --' Freddie broke off and shrugged. 'No, I'd say Cressie knows the meaning of a lot of obscure words - but love isn't one of them.' Mrrrayeeeow! Roscoe registered a protest at the delay inservice. He pawed at one of the bags. Something inside was driving him wild. 'What have you got in there - catnip?' 'Just food, glorious food. Poor Roscoe hasn't seen much of it lately. I fed him, of course, whenever he could get out and sneak over to me, or he'd go through your cat flap and raid Had-I and But-Known's food bowls. Only Cressie caught on to that and put him under house arrest.' 'Poor Roscoe,' Lorinda sympathized. 'You have been having a terrible time. But doesn't Macho intervene at all? He must see the state Roscoe is in.' 'He opens a window whenever he can get away with it, so that Roscoe can slip out and forage for himself. But, basically, Macho is the proverbial rabbit caught in the headlights as the locomotive roars towards him.' 'It sounds as though it's already hit him.' 'You're right. Perhaps I mean the man who's got a tiger by the tail.' 'The situation sounds more like the man riding a tiger, who's afraid to dismount.' 'Anyway, you've got the picture. Our Macho is helpless in the toils of a harridan. He doesn't remember how he got landed with her and he's too much of a gentleman to tell her to get out. In any case, she's got the hide of a rhinoceros and wouldn't recognize a hint if he hit her over the head with it.' 'Which, as we know, he's too much of a gentleman to do.' 'If only he could be more like his character,' Freddie sighed. 'Macho Magee would deal with her in ten seconds flat: she'd be sitting in the middle of the road with her suitcase around her neck. Also, since Macho Magee is a gentleman, too, in his own peculiar way, she'd have a one-way ticket out of town and no visible bruises.' 'No such luck with our Macho, though.' Mrrrayeeeow! Roscoe's patience was being tried beyond endurance. He extended his claws and sank them into the plastic bag, ripping it down one side. 'All right!' Freddie swooped and pulled out a small covered bowl. 'You needn't demonstrate your bin bag technique for me. We've all seen enough of it.' She slipped off the cover and placed the bowl on the floor, stepping back hastily to get out of Roscoe's way. 'Honestly, he's turned into the local menace on rubbish collection day since Cressie's been starving him. Not a bin liner is safe from his claws. Everyone is being very understanding, but he leaves an incredible mess.' 'Poor baby.' Lorinda stooped to caress him. 'You've been having such a terrible time --' 'WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING?' They hadn't heard the light knock at the back door and now the whirlwind was upon them. A blurred figure dashed across the room and snatched the bowl from under Roscoe's nose. 'I've told you not to feed him!' She straightened, glaring at Freddie, then transferred her fury to Lorinda. 'And that goes for you, too - whoever you are!' 'This is Lorinda. Lorinda Lucas. She lives here.' Macho had followed the woman into the kitchen. He gave Lorinda an apologetic glance. 'Welcome back.' 'And this is Cressie,' Freddie said pointedly. 'Yes, yes, I'm sorry.' Macho stood rebuked. 'This is ... Cressie.' 'How do you do, Cressida?' Lorinda felt that a little formality was called for. 'Cressida? Cressida?' The young woman snatched back the hand she had started to proffer and looked around wildly. 'Who's Cressida?' 'Isn't that your name?' Lorinda looked to Macho, who shrugged. 'Cressida? As in Troilus and Cressida? That loser? My parents wouldn't do that to me.' She flung back her head proudly. ' My name is Crescendo!' 'It would be,' Freddie muttered. Roscoe took advantage of the fact that Cressie's attentionwas fully occupied elsewhere to steal forward and dip into the bowl that she had forgotton she was still holding. 'Stop that!' She was too late. He backed away swiftly with a long strip of chicken drooping below both jowls, giving him a Fu Manchu look. 'That cat needs better training!' Cressie snapped at Macho. 'The cat needs better feeding,' Freddie said. 'You're starving the poor thing.' She glared at Macho accusingly. 'And you're letting it happen!' 'He should have done something about the situation long ago!' Cressie, too, accused Macho. 'That damned cat was nearly too fat to walk!' 'Mmmm.' Macho gave them both a craven smile and turned to Lorinda. 'Have a nice trip?' 'Very nice.' She took pity on him and went with the change of subject. 'Tiring, though. Even with the holiday tacked on at the end, there were still lots of bits of work to do.' 'Holidays can be more exhausting than staying home and working.' Macho sounded as though he'd like to be given that choice. 'Successful, would you say?' 'Who can tell?' Lorinda sighed. 'But New York was fun - what I can remember of it - and I met some awfully nice people along the way. I only hope I'll know them if I ever see them again ...' She thought guiltily of the small stack of business cards in her handbag. 'It's all turning into one great blur.' 'Book tours are like that,' Macho sympathized. 'At least you had a good time some of the time.' 'Book tour?' Cressie whirled on her. 'You've been on a book tour? In the States?' 'I told you --' Macho began. 'You're always telling me something!' Cressie brushed him aside, moving a step closer to Lorinda. 'How did you get an American book tour?' 'She started by having an American publisher,' Macho said, nastily for him. 'I didn't ask you!' The gold lightning bolt piercing one of Cressie's eyebrows flashed as she turned her head to glare at him. It was apparently a sore point. 'Why don't you come to dinner tomorrow night?' Freddie invited. 'She can tell you all about it then. And,' honesty seemed to compel her to admit, 'I can use you as guinea pigs for some new recipes I've found.' 'What kind of recipes?' Cressie asked, with a suspicion that spoke of previous unpleasant experience. 'Oh, I haven't decided on the menu yet,' Freddie said. 'There are so many possibilities ...' 'I have to go up to London tomorrow,' Cressie said. 'I won't be back until late. You can go,' she told Macho ungraciously. Since when had he needed her permission? Nevertheless, his eyes lit up, as did Freddie's. It was obviously going to be a more enjoyable evening without Cressie around. 'Would you like a --' Lorinda began. 'We can't stay,' Cressie said abruptly. 'We're expecting an important telephone call. We just came to collect the cat. Get him!' she ordered. Macho obediently scooped Roscoe into his arms, holding him tightly. Roscoe extended his claws to hook them lightly into Macho's jacket with a sad little Meewrrrl. Clinging to each other like survivors of a shipwreck, man and cat drifted out of the house in Cressie's wake. Copyright © 2004 by Marian Babson. Excerpted from Please Do Feed the Cat by Marian Babson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Menace And Meows
A decomposing body...a severed head in a closet...a macabre meeting with "
Mother"--mystery writer Lorinda Lucas tosses yet another paperback in the trash, appalled at the gruesome direction of today's crime fiction
She's even more disturbed at the half-starved state of Roscoe, the cat next door
Before Lorinda left for her latest book tour, Roscoe was as plump and pampered as her own two felines, Had-I and But-Known
It only takes a modicum of sleuthing to find out that in Lorinda's absence Roscoe's owner, Macho Magee, has acquired a new girlfriend--a harridan who has put the gentle Macho and his pet on a strict diet
And that's only the first disturbing news in Brimful Coffers, the once-quiet village that now includes a writer's colony
Lorinda soon discovers that a hit-and-run has ended a child's life, professional jealousy has taken a deadly twist, and murder is just around the catty-corner... "Marian Babson's latest cozy...immerses the reader in English village life, after a witty swipe at the kind of graphic crime typical of Patricia Cornwell
A cast of delightful characters, including cats." --
Publishers Weekly "
An engaging and charming mystery" --Harriet Klausner

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