Title of Presentation

Cats as Detectives in Library Mysteries

Date of Presentation

3-2015

Name of Conference

American Culture Association/Popular Culture Association

Date of Conference

3-2015

Location of Conference

New Orleans, LA

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Department

Lydia M. Olson Library

Abstract

Cats have become ubiquitous as detectives or detective assistants in twenty-first century mysteries, although the trend began with the “The Cat Who” books, the first of which was published in the nineteen-sixties. Cats have a fine history in the detective genre, but current depictions of cats as detectives include the cats conversing with other animals and even the human detective in the novel.

Some of these cats possess supernatural abilities, and even those who don't possess impressive intelligence. Cats are notorious, of course, for being curious, and the librarians who function as amateur sleuths are similar in this regard. Some cats, such as Diesel (in Miranda James’s Cat in the Stacks series), uncover murderers by pursuing normal cat goals, such as looking for food. Others, however, have supernatural powers. In the Magical Cats Mysteries (by Sofie Kelly), Owen can make himself invisible and Hercules can walk through walls and doors. Both cats can also read, apparently, since, when they use their powers to find clues, they are often written clues. Eddie, in the Bookmobile Mysteries, is able to locate a dead body from some distance. While it might be tempting to suggest that these cats are their librarians’ familiars, the only actual librarian witch who owns a cat has a cat who doesn’t seem to have any supernatural gifts. The pairing of the librarian-sleuth with a cat or cats (with or without supernatural powers) undercuts the professional skill of the librarian to locate and use information to solve the crime.

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