by Cynthia Chow
Details at the end of this review on how to enter to win an ebook copy of Stages of Grey, and info on how to purchase a copy of the book where a portion goes to help support KRL.
As a fifth-year graduate student and doctoral candidate in the Department of English at an East Coast Ivy League college, Dulcie Schwartz feels the stress to revise and publish her paper on an anonymously authored gothic novel. Dulcie’s thesis advisor thought he was being sensitive when he suggested a seminar on time-management skills, but her friends go the other route and say she needs an escape to take her mind off her work. Their solution is a disco-themed interpretation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis performed by the University Repertory Theatre. That option loses its appeal after a publicity-fueled prank traumatizes Dulcie into believing she witnessed a werewolf attack. Since she has recently came to the conclusion that her IT boyfriend Chris Sorenson is, in fact a werewolf, it may contribute to her distaste for the theater company’s conduct.
However, free tickets as an apology has Dulcie and her friends attending the performance. While Chris doesn’t mind the trick of having his wallet pickpocketed, Dulcie is entirely disconcerted by the cast. A murder outside of the theater would seem to enforce her conclusions.
A glimpse of the wandering Russian Blue theater cat has cat-obsessed Dulcie determined to recover the kitty and ensure its safety. To do so, Dulcie inserts herself into the cast of eccentrics. Their personalities were over-the-top before the murder but now they seem even more invested in keeping secrets. Fortunately or not, Dulcie has the continual advice of the ghost of her beloved feline companion Mr. Grey, as well as the psychic communications from her new kitten Esme.
The tone of this mystery continues to be a blend of gothic and classic noir, entirely appropriate as it reflects Dulcie’s area of study. Selections from the mysterious novel The Ravages of Umbria prove fascinating and relevant to current events, especially as it seems to contain a character who embodies Mr. Grey in human form. Both the reader and Dulcie are often unsure of just what is real and what is not, especially as her suspicions over the dual nature of her boyfriend is becomes impossible to ignore.
Far more grounded are Dulcie’s fears of how publication could change her status and force her to leave academic life. Dulcie’s passion for cats overrides her common sense, but it can be forgiven considering the love she has for Mr. Grey, who continues to be a presence in her life, even after the end of his.
Simon crafts eerie mysteries that blend her love for animals with the gothic world, while retaining her acerbic sense of wit and commentary on the academic world.
To enter to win an ebook copy of Stages of Grey, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Grey,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 1, 2014. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address. Special Note: The publisher is giving away 5 copes of this book with this review, but they can only give them away through a free online service called NetGalley–winners will be instructed on how to join by the publisher.
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