There aren’t enough novels that feature cats as amongst their cast of main characters. And if you’re looking stories that featuring evil talking cats then you’re delving into a very specialist area. The only cat that fits that criteria that springs to mind is Behemoth from Master and Margarita. Lynne Truss however has written two novels featuring evil-talking-cat stories to expand that cannon.
In The Lunar Cats Lynne Truss carries on the life of Alec Charlesworth after he survives the events of Cat Out of Hell, his earlier adventure. Unfortunately for Alec, he kept an object from his encounter that marks him out, like a good Hammer-esque horror story, for more evil shenanigans.
Not all talking cats are evil, of course. The Lunar Cats of the title are from a group called the ‘London Lunar Society’, who represent more learned talking cats, and their society aims for understanding the world rather than the evils cat’s aim of world domination.
In interweaving threads we have the society’s meeting transcripts and the journal entries of one of their members, Mr Thomas Tinkins, as he is sent on a secret mission aboard Captain Cook’s Endeavour for his expedition to Tahiti mixing with Charlseworth’s latest job, which is to research Dr Johnson’s cat, Dr Johnson was also a passenger on the Endeavour.
There are several things to like about Truss’s style of Hammer-esque horror. She has a playful sense of humour – wait until you meet the kitten. She also doesn’t make it too scary or gory. She keeps her evil sanitised as even Satan has a request form. And most important of all she her cast, humans and cats, is full of hooks make the pages turn.
Unfortunately, there is an issue when it comes to The Lunar Cats as a stand alone/sequel. Without having read Cat Out of Hell Truss merely fills in the gaps, presumably assuming that the reader is fully aware of the previous escapade of Charlesworth and evil talking cats, or least that’s what it seems to feel like.
If you’re averse to spoilers but like the idea of pulp horror and talking cats then start with Cat Out of Hell as the level of the detail shared may have taken away some of the tension and a good horror needs some level of suspense.
Regardless, The Lunar Cats is a fun, hammy (in the best sense) horror with heroes who aren’t usually seen to be heroic, especially when one of them decides the bus is faster than the car in an emergency. Truss mixes in an alternative history lesson and you’ll never look at a kitten in quite the same way again.