Never Kill a Cat and Other Stories by Miles Archer

Never Kill a Cat and Other Stories by Miles Archer
Publisher: Untreed Reads
Genre: Suspense/Mystery, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (116 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

One of the “folk wisdoms” that circulates among crime/mystery writers is this: While one may slaughter as many humans in pretty much any gory fashion one wishes, a writer will earn his/her readers’ undying enmity should they presume to fictionally destroy a feline. (Dogs are only slightly less verboten…perhaps dog lovers are more sanguine?)
In the title story we have an old woman, alone in the world but for her beloved felines…and she’s a serial killer in the making. They say revenge is a dish best served cold—cold as death.

This collection includes nine more tales—all of them Archer’s seventies-era “hippy” P.I. Doug McCool short stories, collected together for the first time.

Sometimes the police can’t or won’t investigate a crime for a wide variety of reasons. Who would you count on instead when this happens?

“Never Kill a Cat” was a fantastic opening for this collection. The storyline focused on a woman named Dolores whose cat suddenly and mysteriously disappeared. She had to figure out what happened to him as well as decide how to react to the person who might have been responsible for his disappearance. Dolores’ unique view of the world was what caught my attention. Her personality was so well developed and eccentric that I couldn’t wait to see how she reacted to all of the plot twists that popped up during her quest to uncover the truth.

There were a few stories that needed more clues and background information. I had some trouble telling what was going on in them because they gave me so few hints about what might happen next or why their characters behaved the way the did. “Nobody Gets Outa Here Alive” was a good example of this. It followed Freddy’s life after he witnessed a frightening robbery at a store he was shopping at. Freddy was incredibly interesting, but there were things about his personality and character development that never made sense to me because of how little I knew about his life from before the robbery.

What made “The Miller’s Wife’s Tale” it stand out the most to me were all of the little details about the people connected to this case. Some of the plot was about a string of murders that happened to women working as prostitutes, and the rest was about a woman who was trying to figure out what her spouse was up to when she wasn’t around him. I can’t say anything else about them without giving away spoilers, but knowing so much about the characters that were involved in it made it easy to empathize with what was going on. This worked great as a short story, although it also could have been expanded into a full-length novel because it was so complex and richly detailed.

I’d recommend Never Kill a Cat and Other Stories to anyone who likes short, snappy mysteries.

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