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Grey Matters (Dulcie Schwartz) by Clea Simon
Cover Artist: Photo: Photolibrary
Review by Gayle Surrette
Severn House Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780727868404
Date: 01 March 2010 List Price $28.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Clea Simon / Show Official Info /

Dulcie Schwartz is having a difficult time adjusting to the new kitten that replaced her beloved Mr. Grey. The kitten just doesn't speak to her nor does it have the solemn manner of Mr. Grey. But, there are other matters even more important. Dulcie's advisor, Professor Bullock, wants to see real progress on her thesis, but the problem is that he's also being erratic. Just when Dulcie thinks things can't get any worse, she nearly trips over a dead body leaving the professor's house. Who would want to murder a grad student?

Grey Matters is the second of the Dulcie Schwartz feline mysteries, the first book Shades of Grey set up the characters that continue in this installment. However, Grey Matters can definitely stand alone as I had no difficulty having missed the first book. Dulcie is a third-year graduate student living in Cambridge, Massachusetts studying a Gothic novel, the Ravages of Umbria. She's found an angle that no one else has looked at before and she needs to convince her advisor to let her run with it. However, after a short and frustrating meeting, she discovers a body of a fellow student on the professor's doorstep.

Thus begins a series of events that pulls Dulcie further and further into confusion as she tries to regain her balance. It doesn't help that Dulcie's mother, who believes herself a psychic, begins to call and leave cryptic messages. Then there's her boyfriend working longer hours and not available for support or comfort. It's no wonder that Dulcie, dwelling on the murder, finds herself trying to figure out how it happened and who did it.

Once again, Clea Simon has written a satisfying mystery with interesting characters, none of whom can be mistaken for the other, enough red herrings to confuse the issues, all the clues out in the open, and a realistic tale of academic politics and snobbery in a tight economy. The subtitle of the series is "a feline mystery" and cats are involved. Dulcie talks to her cat and believes it could talk back. Her mother believes that a cat is Dulcie's spirit guide. Even with this bit of woo-woo, the mystery is solved the old-fashioned way by gathering clues and trying to fit the pieces together. While the cat or cats may speak to Dulcie, they're an eccentricity more than a deus ex machine.

Very enjoyable and entertaining.

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