Friday, October 18, 2013
Review of The Hour of the Cat by Peter Quinn (Duckworth Overlook, 2006)
The strength of The Hour of the Cat is its plot, characters, and historical contextualisation and detail. The story is an expansive, complex but intricately plotted tale that blends a traditional style private investigator tale with national and international politics. There are numerous interlinked subplots that mix fictional and real-life characters and are contextualised within the historical record of the time, such as the eugenics movement on both sides of the Atlantic, the expressions of Nazism in the US, the neutrality position of many in the US, developments within Germany and plots inside its military, and even weather events. Along with its elaborate plot are a large cast of characters, each of which is well drawn and accompanied by a back story. The result is a compelling and fascinating tale. Where the story is let down a little is in the telling. The slow pacing, detailed contextualisation, and understated prose produces a rather flat narrative, with a little too much of the telling not moving the story forward, and the complexity of the story might have benefitted from losing one or two subplots. Nevertheless, The Hour of the Cat is a clever tale that provides an interesting insight into the US life and politics just prior to the Second World War.