Beyond the Gravy written by Mandy Morton is book seven in the Feline Detective Agency series. It was published May 16, 2019.
A Land Full of Criminal Cats… and tea trays full of food
I was pleasantly shocked, and initially a bit alarmed, when I discovered that this book, series is all about cats. It occurs in a world much like the ones humans live in with the exception of the fact that there are no actual humans. How wonderful!
It actually did not take me long to forget that humans actually exist. These cats have all the characteristics and personalities of humans and the only time I remember they are cats is when paws and claws are mentioned instead of hands and fingers. It was too easy to get sucked into.
They don’t even eat cat food. They eat a whole lot of food, especially the main characters. If ever I doubted that English food cannot be delicious I was steadily reminded by mentions of crisps, savory pies and biscuits on just about every page.
Mind you, this is not a novel about cats who cook. But the two main characters, Hettie and Tilly, live in a little apartment connected to a bakery and happen to adore food.
This novel at heart is about criminal activities in their community and the frequent meals provide these foodies fuel to investigate.
Hettie… the main detective
Hettie is a former lead musician of a folk band who is on the stern side when she doesn’t have her catnip pipe to calm her down. She leads the detective agency and has a rather cynical attitude towards life. Her sense of humor is pretty dry and she is quick to be critical.
Having fallen into the world of being a detective she is honest enough to admit she is not exactly the best detective in the world. But she does seem to have a bit of luck on her side as well as a fun little sidekick that helps her get the job done.
Tilly… the sunny side up sidekick
Tilly is a comforting little character. She likes cardigans, reading mysteries and keeping the small flat she shares with Hettie nice and cozy. Tilly is sometimes unnerved by Hettie’s brash nature but goes out of her way to make Hettie’s life easier. Once a street cat, she was homeless and ill when Hettie met her and is thoroughly appreciative to have a roof over her head.
Not to say that she doesn’t have a fun little life, because she does. She typically answers the agencies phone calls and inquiries while also being a valuable sidekick. Sure she often prepares the tea and plans dinner but she is in my opinion probably the brains behind their operation. Due to her love of criminal tales she adds valuable knowledge which helps them to solve crimes. Of all the novels I have read Tilly would receive the best supporting actress award.
Irene Peggledrip… resident cat psychic of gravy
Irene is the local psychic medium, because doesn’t every city in the world have a resident who can see into the great beyond? Even in the world of cats in this case. Irene in particular sees the future through gravy. Yes. Gravy.
But she has been alarmed by some hair raising experiences at her residence that has left the fur on her back standing on end. A pack of wild cats who are long dead have been wrecking havoc and tearing her home apart.
This is all very bad for business which prompts Irene to dial up the Feline Detective Agency.
Hettie and Tilly have their reservations about accepting her case. Who wouldn’t? It is spooky business and when I tell you these ghost cats are are causing chaos I absolutely mean it. It was delightful and worth a really good laugh. However living near the bakery costs money so our fearless duo accepts the check and promise to assist.
Agatha Crispie… and the wild trip of a lifetime
Tilly wins a contest to visit the famed crime writer Agatha Crispie at her home. The journey to claim her prize comes with its own set of obstacles including a serious run in with a cat biker gang and a night at a hotel where the proud and despicable owner revels in historic hangings.
At this point I am fully immersed in this world. We have cats wearing leather, actual gangs and high speed chases. What more could I ask for? Tea. Of course. Because tea must be had- along with more biscuits, scones and cheese straws than you can shake a paw at.
The whole cast is memorable…
Throughout this novel I was introduced to so many wonderful characters of various backgrounds. There is the surly and functioning alcoholic postmistress, Lavender Stamp, who lives to send all of her customers away in tears. There is Bruiser, a leather clad biker who chauffeurs Tilly and Hettie around. The Butter Sisters own the bakery and keep the food mukbangs going with daily vouchers they provide to the Detectives. There is even new cat in town who opens a restaurant and claims the heart of one of their friends.
What a refreshing read. I feel full enough after all of the tea, pies and baked goods to say that it was enjoyable. This is a fantastical tale where you can easily forget you are reading about cats with human qualities. I really enjoyed the foodie aspects being tied into the narrative so often.
This novel was very well paced. I learned a great deal about the characters along the way. Their personality types mirrored those of humans and were equally well fleshed out.
Since the cats live in a world that is seemingly lawless it made perfect sense that a detective agency would be needed. Despite the two main charcters, Hettie and Tilly, being polar opposites their strengths and weaknesses combine to make a great duo. Tilly couldn’t have been sweeter and Hettie couldn’t have been grumpier. Both are intelligent and observant and when they link wits they uncovered enough to solve the riddle.
The fact that they were working on a case for a psychic was interesting to say the least. I would say that it would be hard to wrap their paws around ghosts that even the psychic that hired them cannot handle. I enjoyed the way the truth unfolded, although I think that Hettie had more than a little bit of luck on her side, and ultimately I did not come near to guessing the whodunit in this fantastic work.
The other characters all had such definitive personalities it made me want to read more about them in the other books in this series. Where else can you hear tales of a drunken, angry cat who runs the post office? Or kitties that are sky high off of catnip?
I will have future reviews of this entire series to post in due time. Thank you to Net Galley and the publisher for providing me with an advanced reader copy in exchange for my honest review.