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Friday, May 30, 2014


A Review of Peter Quinn's HOUR OF THE CAT

HOUR OF THE CAT features one of the oddest "pairings" fiction has seen in a long time. The novel, covering the period between 1936-1938, splits its time between New York and Berlin. The New York section covers the efforts made by ex-con turned PI, Finton Dunne, while the Berlin sections give us the trials and tribulations of Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.

Dunne has been hired to help free a man falsely convicted of the brutal murder of a woman. Matters are hampered further when crooked cops want him to leave the matter alone and the doomed convict himself refuses to cooperate.

While all this is going on, Canaris has his hands full in Berlin. His Abwehr, the SS and the Gestapo are all keeping tabs on each other while Hitler and the Nazis go about genocide, implementing their eugenics programs and preparations for war. It's evil as usual in the Reich until Canaris gets wind of a coup in the works - a desperate attempt to stop Hitler before he drags Germany into another war.

What do the two plot lines have in common?

You'll have to read the book to find out.

And you're going to want to, believe me.

Now HOUR OF THE CAT does not barrel along like a freight train. If you're looking for a quick, edge of your seat read, look elsewhere. No, what Quinn does with this novel is give us some beautiful prose and well-rounded characters. This is fiction you wallow around in, savor, take your time with. Dunne is a complex character amongst a tableau where no one is quite who they seem to be. Canaris is man losing control of his work and his country. Both characters are well drawn and leap off the page. Their struggles grab the reader by the throat and keeps the pages turning.

Quinn also does a very admirable job of recreating the time period. Both sections
are peppered with real life historical figures and the settings themselves, New York and Berlin of the 1930s, is well rendered with just enough details to create a sense of place without bogging down the slow unraveling of the plot.

The result is an engaging read. Sure, it takes a long time for
the two plot lines to converge but Quinn's writing makes the journey worthwhile. HOUR OF THE CAT is a compelling novel. In the hands of a lesser writer, one might be tempted to give up on the book after the first 100 pages or so but Quinn is such a good wordsmith that this initial obstacle is easily overlooked. Something of a challenging novel, HOUR OF THE CAT makes for a fitting entry in the growing body of Berlin Noir fiction.